LANCASTER, PA - Former Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University head coach Dr. Theodore H. Rupp, Ph.D. '35 has been named the 2002 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Man of the Year for dedication and lifetime contributions to the sport.
A fan and dedicated coach of wrestling throughout his life, Rupp was introduced to the sport while attending the Franklin & Marshall Academy. Following graduation from the Academy in 1931, he moved onto attend Franklin & Marshall College where he became a member of a strong wrestling program.
"It (wrestling) gave me self-confidence, for one thing," Rupp said in a 1997 interview. "I knew I could hold my own with anybody in circumstances where I might have to defend myself. Maybe most importantly, it put me in contact with people who are the salt of the earth. It gave me friends I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been involved in sports."
A student of the sport, he became head wrestling coach at the Academy following his matriculation from Franklin & Marshall in 1935. From 1935 until 1943, he guided the team to four consecutive National Preparatory School Team Championships (1930, 1940, 1941, and 1942).
He coached 14 national prep champions, including Dick DiBattista who went on to become a two time NCAA champion at Penn in 1941 and 1942. Overall, other academy graduates went on to wrestle at Penn (Ben Kennedy, Don Bitler, Bill Medcraft), Penn State (Charley Horvath, Mac Hummel), Lehigh (Sherry Bannan, Fred Christ), Yale (Dick Long), Cornell (Joe Calby) and Franklin & Marshall (Joe Endrizzi, Ben Bell, Bob Zima, Bob Balmer, Lou Schneider and Pete Chicchine under Coach Charlie Mayser).
In 1942, with the National Prep Tournament a week away and the team's heavyweight going down to 175, he persuaded the captain of the basketball team, Luke Wallace (210 lbs.) to take a "crash course" in wrestling. With only four practice sessions (Sunday afternoon, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday after basketball practice - since the team had a game on Wednesday), Wallace went all the way to the finals, where he finished as the national prep heavyweight runner-up.
His next stop was Shady Side Academy were he coached and taught for one year prior to joining the United States Navy for the duration of World War II. While at Shady Side, Rupp gained a fourth place finish in the National Prep Team Championships and coached Jim Jackson, who later matriculated at Lehigh where he was a team captain and EIWA champion.
While in the Navy, Rupp taught wrestling as a collateral duty at Ohio State University, in the Admiralty Islands, aboard the U.S.S. Thetis Bay and at Oklahoma A&M.
In 1946, he started a wrestling program at Millersville University and would ultimately guide it through 12 straight winning seasons (1946-58), finishing with a 76-20-2 collegiate record and Millersville's only two conference titles to date.
The Marauders finished second four times, third four times and fourth once under Rupp, as the program produced 17 individual champions who won 23 championships. Of his champions, several became head coaches including John Reese (Wilkes), Jerry Barger (Penn Manor), Bob Brown (York Central), George Doherty (Massapequa, New York), Glenn Flegal (Carlisle), John Kopack (Neshaminy), Leon Senft (Dover), Dick Smoker (Selinsgrove) and John Toggas (West York).
In 1950-51 when F&M head coach Austin Bishop was recalled to the Pentagon for military service, he took over the Diplomats' program on a temporary volunteer basis while maintaining his position with Millersville. In spite of difficulties, he earned a conference title at Millersville (10-0) and a 10-1 dual meet record at Franklin & Marshall, with the lone loss coming to Lehigh University, for a combined 20-1 record. He also assisted Roy Phillips with F&M coaching duties in 1961-62 when his regular assistant was called back to military service.
In his retirement, Rupp continues to support the Diplomats' wrestling program. In 1995, he agreed to spearhead a $1,000,000 fundraising drive to endow the Franklin & Marshall coaching position. Due to his tireless efforts, over $950,000 has been raised for the W. Roy Phillips '34 Wrestling Endowment. He continues to spend hours in F&M's Development Office writing letters, making phone calls and visiting friends and alumni of the program until the total exceeds the $1 million goal.
His experience in fund-raising is brief but spectacular as he succeeded in raising over $1,000,000 from fellow Franklin & Marshall Academy Alumni in 1995 to establish an endowed scholarship at F&M.
Academically, Rupp distinguished himself in the classroom. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in English from F&M in 1935, Rupp earned an M.A. in French from Penn State in 1942 and a Ph. D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954.
He began teaching at Millersville University in 1946 and served as the chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages from 1954 to 1979. A Fulbright Scholar at the Sorbonne and Montpellier from 1952 through 1953, Rupp was honored by the French government in 1969 as a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Palmes Academiques for contributions to the propagation of French language and culture.
The 1999 National Wrestling Hall of Fame Pennsylvania Chapter "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award recipient, he was honored by the Lancaster Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association as the recipient of the "George Kirchner Award" for his contributions to the local sports scene in 1984.
Other honors include President of the
Pennsylvania Modern Language Association, inductee into the F&M
Sports Hall of Fame (1990) and a citation from the Pennsylvania
Department of Education for "Outstanding Service in Foreign
Language Education in PA" (1991). In 1994 he was awarded the
Franklin & Marshall College Alumni Medal in recognition of
distinguished and outstanding service to the College.