Leon “Champ” Martin, 1942 NCAA finalist for Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) and long-time high school wrestling coach, died Monday in Ponca City, Okla. He was 90.
Martin, who was born October 19, 1921 on the family farm outside Goldfield, Iowa, attended Eagle Grove High School, where he won the 165-pound title at the Iowa state wrestling championships. Martin continued his wrestling career at ISTC, making it to the 175-pound finals of the 1942 NCAA championships, the last held before World War II. In the NCAA title bout, Martin lost on a referee’s decision to Dick DiBatista of the University of Pennsylvania 4-4, 1-1, RD.
After serving on a PT boat in World War II, Martin returned to ISTC, where he not only earned his degree in Industrial Arts Education, but also met his future wife, Dottie.
After graduating from the Cedar Falls-based school, Martin launched his teaching and coaching career at Algona High School. As wrestling coach at Algona, Martin could claim 16 individual state champions, and four state team titles in the decade from 1966-1975.
For his accomplishments as a coach, Martin was named a distinguished prep coach by Amateur Wrestling News magazine, and has been welcomed into three wrestling halls of fame, including the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco.
Martin was also known as a woodworker and master homebuilder, building 20 homes in Algona during summer breaks from teaching.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Martin moved to Oklahoma to be closer to family. He passed away at the Via Christi Village Care Center in Ponca City. He is survived by three sons and one daughter; he was preceded in death by his wife in 1994, and son Bob in 2007.
Visitation will be held Monday, Oct. 31 from 4-7 p.m. at Oakcrest Funeral Services, 218 S. Moore Street in Algona. The funeral will be Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 101 N. Main in Algona. Burial will be at Riverview Cemetary in Algona.
Want to know more? Read the biography of Leon “Champ” Martin at the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame website… and his online obituary where friends may share memories and post condolences.
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