The 1969-72 Golden Bears wrestling teams hold the distinction of being the first national championship dynasty in the storied history of Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics.
During that three year period, as well as the three years that preceded it, the Golden Bears wrestling teams achieved incredible success at every level, winning six straight conference championships and four straight national championships, including the 1968-69 CIAU championship, which was won under a different format than the subsequent years, and doesn’t officially count towards their dynasty totals.
From 1969-70 to 1971-1972 the Golden Bears flattened the opposition, including winning the program’s first ever CIAU national championship with 46 pts, a 12-point margin over second place Waterloo. Gold medalists that historic year included Gord Bertie, Dave Duniec, Brian Heffel, Serge Gauthier and Bob Thayer, while Ron Lappage picked up silver. The Bears also won the Canada West championship that season by a 24-point margin over the Saskatchewan Huskies.
They claimed their second consecutive CIAU championship with 34 total points, compared to 26 by Lakehead University. Gord Bertie, who was inducted onto the Sports Wall of Fame in 1998, won another CIAU gold medal, and was joined by teammates Butch Glover and Tadamichi Tanaka, a Japanese world champion who moved to Edmonton to compete for the Bears and attend the U of A. Alberta also won the Canada West title with a total of 61 pts, seven points clear of University of Saskatchewan.
The dynasty was cemented in 1971-72 when the Golden Bears claimed their third consecutive title, this time earning the CIAU banner with 44 total points, 12 points ahead of the University of Western Ontario. Gord Bertie, Tanaka, Ole Sorensen and Serge Gauthier all got to the top of the podium in their division. The Canada West title was brought back to the U of A wrestling room as well when the Bears earned a total of 65 points, compared to 56 by silver medalists Lakehead, who competed in Canada West as part of the Great Plains Athletics Conference which stretched from Regina to Thunder Bay.
1970/71 National Champions
Although the team championships stopped in 1972-73, both Bertie and Sorensen would continue to find incredible personal success. They each represented Canada as members of the 1972 Olympic Team, while Sorensen also went on to co-coach the University of Alberta wrestling program with Dr. Bill Hallett, before going on to become the Technical Director for the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association. Bertie continued his outstanding career by once again representing Canada at the 1976 Olympics, where he finished sixth, and he also captured a bronze medal at the 1974 World Wrestling Championships, which, at the time, was Canada’s first ever World Championship medal.
Alongside Bertie and Sorenson, two other Golden Bears are remembered as icons for the dynasty Golden Bears: Tadamichi Tanaka, who was a two-time World Champion, and Brian Heffel who competed for Canada in the 1968 Olympics, won the Wilson Trophy in 1972 and was inducted onto the Sports Wall of Fame in 1999.
Coaching the Golden Bears during these halcyon days was Dr. Bert Taylor, who also went on to international prominence. He coached several National teams, including the Canadian national team at the 1969 World Championships, the World team in 1970 in Argentina, and the Commonwealth Games team in 1970. Dr. Taylor was also accredited as an International official, representing Canada at the 1976 Olympics.
Perhaps the most impressive legacy of the Golden Bears wrestling dynasty is the 1970 World Championship, which was hosted in Edmonton. It was the first World Championship event, of any sport, hosted by the City of Edmonton, and the success of it as an international event was the springboard for the future major sporting events, including the 1978 Commonwealth Games and 1983 Universiade.
The athletic superiority shown by the 1969-72 Golden Bears wrestling program, combined with the echo of the program’s incredible legacy within the City of Edmonton and province of Alberta’s history, establishes those Golden Bears wrestling teams as perhaps the most incredible dynasty team in Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics history, and a proud addition to the Sports Wall of Fame.
1971/72 National Champions