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Rick Sanders

Rick Sanders - Wrestling


Rick Sanders put Portland and Oregon on the international wrestling map with national titles and a pair of Olympic silver medals before dying tragically at a young age.

Born in 1945, Sanders finished with a high school record of 80-1 and three state titles while at Lincoln High. He won at 98 pounds in 1961, 108 pounds in ‘62 and 115 pounds in ‘63. After graduating from Lincoln, Sanders trained for the ’64 Olympics at a camp that included legend Dan Gable. Gable credits Sanders with teaching him specific moves that helped him finish his college career with just one loss.

After that intensive training, Sanders enrolled at Portland State and won national titles at the NAIA, NCAA Div. II and Div. I championship meets, earning the outstanding wrestler at each level.

He won at 115 pounds at the NAIA meet in 1965 and was outstanding wrestler.

In ’66, the PSU program moved to NCAA Div. II and, after finishing third in the Div. II meet, Sanders won at 115 pounds at the Div. I meet. The following year, Sanders won titles at the Div. II and Div. I meet and was outstanding wrestler in each meet. The Vikings won the national title at Div. II and placed fifth at Div. I.

As a senior, Sanders won at Div. II and PSU finished second. Then he finished as runner-up at Div. I and the Vikings placed sixth. He finished his collegiate career with five national titles and two losses.

Sanders qualified for both the 1968 and ’72 Olympic Games, and won silver in each. In between those Olympics, Sanders became the first American to win a title at the world championship, taking the 52kg title in 1969 just hours before American Fred Fozzard won at 82 kg. He won five U.S. freestyle titles, six international medals and is credited with having once beaten Gable 6-0 – the lone shutout Gable suffered in his career.

Following the ’72 Games in Munich, Germany, he was killed in an auto accident in Yugoslavia. He was 27.

Sanders was inducted to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and into the Portland State Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1997 – along with the ’67 national championship team. He is a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Class of 1987.