Here’s the tweet from Georgia Tech’s athletics director, Todd Stansbury, posted Wednesday evening to announce Lange’s passing: “The @GTAthletics family & I mourn the loss of Lowell Lange, who passed away this week. A 3-time national champion as a student-athlete at Cornell College in Iowa and member of the @NWHOF, he coached our wrestling program from 1964 87. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Lowell William Lange was born in Dixon, Iowa on August 17, 1928. According to a profile written by historian Arno Niemand for the “History of Collegiate Wrestling” book by Jay Hammond, Lange and his family moved numerous times before settling in Waterloo, Iowa. Lowell and his older brother Kent enrolled in Waterloo West High, and went out for the school’s wrestling team. Lowell Lange was a two-time Iowa high school state champ at 145 pounds.
Lowell “Tiger” Lange — along with Wahawk teammates Richard Hauser and Leo Thomsen — was recruited by Paul Scott, head wrestling coach at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa, about a half-hour north of Iowa City. While Hauser and Thomsen had already committed to Cornell, Lange had been considering Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) — located a few minutes from Waterloo — but had developed a friendship with coach Scott on a trip to the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) national championships in New York City, and decided to go to Cornell with Hauser and Thomsen.
As a wrestler at Cornell, Lange was a three-time NCAA champ at 136 pounds — and grabbed three more AAU titles — in 1947, 1949 and 1950. As a freshman, Lange was one of two individual champs for Cornell (the other being Hauser, at 121 pounds) who helped propel the Purple to the team championship, the first private school to win an NCAA team title, and the school with the smallest total enrollment.
In 1948, Lange was seriously injured in a car crash near Mt. Vernon that sidelined his mat career for the year, making him unable to defend his NCAA and AAU individual titles, thus denying him the opportunity to possibly become the first four-time NCAA mat champ (an accomplishment not to be realized until Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith won four titles in the early 1990s).
Lowell Lange completed his Cornell athletic career with a 46-1 overall record, with 19 falls. His only collegiate loss was to Keith Young of Northern Iowa.
Having graduated from Cornell College in 1950, Lange took the helm of his alma mater’s wrestling program after coach Paul Scott left to become athletic director at Davidson College in North Carolina. In his one season as head coach at Cornell, he guided former teammate Walt Romanowski to the 128-pound title — and Outstanding Wrestler honors — at the 1951 NCAA championships.
After one year as Cornell coach, Lowell Lange was called to the U.S. Army, where he served in military intelligence for three years… then returned to the family farm to help his father through the rest of the 1950s.
In the early 1960s, Lange moved his family to Atlanta… where he revived the wrestling program at Georgia Tech which became a varsity sport in 1964. There were two high points of Lange’s Georgia Tech coaching career which took place in 1966. That year, the Tech squad defeated Auburn in the SEIWA (Southeastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) Tournament, handing legendary coach Swede Umbach of Auburn his first conference loss in over 20 years … while, that same year, Lange coached the first college wrestling All-American from the state of Georgia, Jim Pond, who placed sixth at 145 pounds at the 1966 NCAAs.
Lange served as head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets until the program was eliminated in 1996.
“He broke my nose more times than I could remember,” Jim Pond told TheGoodWord.com online newsletter for Georgia Tech in 2015. “Everything on his body was hard. I’ve been on the mat with some tough guys … nobody was even close to being as tough as Lowell Lange.”
“Coach Lange affected the direction of many lives of young men who came through the Georgia Tech Wrestling program during these 30 plus years,” according to Billy Saville, who wrestled for Lange at Georgia Tech. “Many people never knew of his tremendous accomplishments because of Coach Lange’s humble nature. We almost had to drag the information out of him to uncover his background, although for those of us who worked out on the mat with him, it was very apparent.”
In addition to his wrestling and coaching accomplishments, Lowell Lange served as a member of the rules committee and the coaches’ executive committee and helped launch USA Wrestling programs in Georgia, according to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
In addition to being welcomed into the Stillwater Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1981, Lowell Lange was installed into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1979, the Cornell College Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Battle of Waterloo Hall of Fame in 2014, among other honors.
Lange is the second member of the Cornell College “Dream Team” of the late 1940s to pass away this fall. Last month, Al Partin, who usually wrestled heavyweight for Cornell the same years as Lowell Lange, died Oct. 17 at Carle Hospital in Urbana, Ill. from complications from colon cancer at age 96.
Born in Portsmouth, Va. in 1922, Partin was a 1941 Illinois state champ for Proviso East High in suburban Chicago. He served in the U.S. Navy for four years during World War II, then enrolled at Cornell the same time as Lowell Lange, wrestling at various weights from 165 pounds to unlimited (as what is now the 285-pound weight class — generally known as heavyweight — was called back then).
After graduating from Cornell in 1950, Partin served as head wrestling coach at the University of Nebraska from 1950-54 before becoming head football and wrestling coach at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., according to his obituary in the Galesburg Register-Mail. He earned a master of arts in school administration from Bradley University and served as director of physical education at Knox until his retirement in 1983. He also served as an alderman in Galesburg.
To learn more about Lowell Lange, Al Partin and the Cornell College “Dream Team” check out the 2007 InterMat profile on the 1947 NCAA titlewinning team … and a 2010 article on Arno Niemand’s “The Dream Team” book.
Thanks to wrestling historian/author Arno Niemand, former Georgia Tech wrestler Billy Saville, Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury, and Jack Carnefix of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for their assistance.