The 55th Annual Clyde Cole Tournament is set for action this weekend

Frank Speziale Photo

OXFORD – The idea of an Oxford Holiday Tournament began to take shape and became a reality in December of 1963. Under the leadership of Coach Gary Hill, the Oxford Academy and Central School “Blackhawks” won the first annual Clyde Cole Tourney.

But long before the Clyde Cole Tournament came to life, Oxford Academy Wrestling program was the “cream-of-the-crop.”

The 1930’s and 1940’s wrestling teams from Oxford Academy were renown throughout New York State. Under the guidance of Rotarian Clyde Cole, the sport flourished. However in 1947, wrestling was dropped from the Oxford Athletic Program for a variety of reasons.

The 50’s brought up much discussion to reinstate the sport at Oxford. It took until the summer of 1962, when a new 36’ x 36’ Resolite Wrestling Mat was purchased and at the end of the fall sports season of that year, a call was put out for any boys interested in wrestling. When a total of 23 young men responded to the challenge, community members saw signs of the program’s return.

Progress was slow at the start and of course there were problems. With the new schools still a dream, a practice site was a necessity. Don Hackett, a former wrestler under Mr. Cole, offered the use of his paint shop on Route 12 and his offer was accepted. Athletic Director & Rotarian Al Doyle became the coach, and he was assisted by Hackett and Edwin Winner (another former wrestling great of Mr. Cole’s era). Uniforms were “long johns” dyed black and gym shorts. A schedule was made, with the Blackhawks competing against junior varsity teams from the area. Through the winter of 1962, the new grapplers trekked through the snow and cold from the school to the paint shop and back nightly. On weekends, the mats were trucked to the gym-auditorium on a Briggs Lumber truck donated graciously by former Norwich wrestler & Rotarian Harry Charles.

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