Myron Roderick, Oklahoma State mat champ and head coach, and Olympic wrestler, died Wednesday at age 77.
Myron Willis Roderick was born in Kansas in September, 1934. He was introduced to wrestling at Winfield High School, losing his first match 19-2, but going on to win back-to-back Kansas state wrestling titles in 1951 and 1952. Roderick was also a state champ in tennis.
According to a profile written by wrestling historian Jay Hammond in his 2005 book The History of Collegiate Wrestling, Roderick was interested in attending University of Oklahoma, and, in fact, had worked out with eventual Sooner head wrestling coach Tommy Evans. However, Oklahoma head coach Port Robertson did not offer him a scholarship, and, in fact, recommended he attend Kansas State. Roderick instead chose Oklahoma’s cross-state rival, Oklahoma State.
As an athlete at the Stillwater school from 1953 through 1956, Roderick compiled a 42-2 record in wrestling, winning three consecutive NCAA titles — the 137-pound crown at the 1954 NCAAs, and the 130 lb championship in 1955 and 1956. He also earned three letters in tennis for the Cowboys.
In 1956, Roderick represented the U.S, at the Melbourne Olympics, where he placed fourth in freestyle.
After graduating from Oklahoma State — and just before leaving for Australia — Roderick was offered the head coaching job for the wrestling program at his alma mater, to replace Art Griffith who was retiring. At the time of his hiring, Roderick was just 21 years old, making him the youngest individual to head up a major collegiate wrestling program in the nation.
While at the helm of the Cowboys, Roderick compiled a 140-10-7 record, for a winning percentage of 91.4%, behind only Ed Gallagher (Oklahoma State, 1917-1940) and Dan Gable (University of Iowa, 1976-1997). Roderick’s wrestlers won 20 individual NCAA championships and seven team titles. Under Roderick, four Cowboys won Olympic gold medals.
Roderick is credited with opening up recruiting at Oklahoma State, welcoming athletes from far-flung places such as Iraq and Japan (including Yojiro Uetake), and bringing the first African-American varsity wrestler to the Cowboys, Joe James, in 1961.
Roderick left the coaching job at Oklahoma State in 1969 at age 34. He went on to serve as director of the U.S. Wrestling Federation (predecessor to today’s USA Wrestling), then as athletic director at his alma mater from 1983-1990. In 1990, he took the helm at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater until his retirement in 2004. He was inducted into the Hall as a Distinguished Member in the inaugural class of 1976.
“On behalf of our Board of Governors, I want to express our deepest sympathies to Myron’s wife Jo Ann and his entire family,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum. “Myron Roderick was such a dynamic person with a witty sense of humor matched by a courageous and innovative leadership style that touched many, many lives and influenced generations through his work in sport.”
Roderick is survived by his wife, Jo Ann.
According to the Hall of Fame, a private family funeral service is being planned for next week. The Hall, in collaboration with Oklahoma State, is planning a memorial service to be held at a date to be determined.
Roderick is the fourth individual associated with Oklahoma State wrestling to pass away in 2011, including 1930s NCAA champ Joe McDaniel, 1946 NCAA titlewinner George Dorsch, and 1957 NCAA champ — and 1960 Olympic gold medalist — Doug Blubaugh.
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