Over the years a handful of truly great athletes in their given sport once walked across the Oregon State campus as students. In the conversation about the greatest OSU athletes of all time, the names of Gary Payton, Dick Fosbury, Steven Jackson, Terry Baker, AC Green, Steve Johnson, and a few more come to the top of the list for most. But long before the names you recognize, one Beaver grappler, nearly 90 years ago, compiled arguably the greatest resume and impacted his sport far greater than all the others.
Robin Reed was born in a tiny logging town in Arkansas but his family eventually moved to Portland where he took up wrestling at Franklin High School only to get enough PE credits to graduate. After going undefeated through high school, he enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College (now OSU) in 1921 making quite a name for himself. While at OAC he won every single match he wrestled in over four years in both local and national competitions. Weighing only around 135 pounds, during the 1924 Olympic Trials, Reed entered the 145.5, 158.5, 174 and 192 (heavyweight) weight classes where he promptly won all of them. He traveled to France for the 1924 Olympics winning gold in the 134.5 pound weight class, pinning every opponent he faced. As the story goes, on the boat en route to France Reed challenged every member of Team USA, beating all 13 of them, 12 by pins. His lone victory by points was against the US heavyweight, Harry Steel, who went on to win the heavyweight gold medal at the Olympics. On the boat back home, Reed challenged Steel again and pinned him five times in 15 minutes. As amazing as this sounds, there are several other incredible stories of Robin Reed’s wrestling feats over the years!
Upon his return from the Olympics in 1924, Robin retired his amateur wrestling career having never lost a match – a feat unmatched by anyone else in the history of the sport other than Japan’s Osamu Watanabe. Widely considered America’s greatest wrestler in the pre-WW2 era, and possibly the greatest amateur ever, Reed was eventually enshrined into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1978. Here are a few pictures of Robin Reed during his prime at OSU and at the Olympics!