Class of 2017

Granite City | SIUE

Jan Gitcho was born in Granite City, Illinois. For people that are truly know the sport of wrestling for the last 45 years, may or may not know the name of a wrestler back in the 70’s by the name of Jan Gitcho. If there was a book that was titled (which I am currently working on) “The best that never was” Jan Gitcho would definitely be taking up a huge portion of the book. If they ever had a book on “If it weren’t for bad luck, I would not have any luck at all”, Jan would be the author! Jan wrestled at Granite City High School, and at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Jan is in the SIUE record books for a 93.3% winning percentage during a 28-2 1972-73 campaign.

Jan never won the state title, although he was ranked to do so. Jan never won a NCAA title, though he had beaten the Division One NCAA National Champion, Pat Milkovich from Michigan State soundly at the Midlands that year. Jan ran into a glitch when his College Coach was penalized for not registering his team to the Division 2 tournament and the whole team was disqualified. That was the year Pat Milkovich won the NCAA tournament and Fujita from Oklahoma State, the returning NCAA champion was out with a separated shoulder. Jan did however defeat Illinois greats Mark Massery and Ken Gerdes in the Illinois College tournament and received the OW award.

Jan then tried the Freestyle scene and took to it like a duck to water! In 1974, he was the only USA wrestler to win his match against the Soviet National Team, get this, in the Soviet Union! He defeated the reigning World Champion, Vladimir Yumin at 57 KG. Now back then and even today, it was nearly impossible to win a match against this Soviet team on their home turf, but Jan defeated Yumin soundly and was given a Sable hat by the Soviets for being the outstanding wrestler.

In 1974 Jan wrestled in the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey but did not place. In 1976, Jan was the 2nd man on the ladder for the USA Olympic team to Montreal, Canada. To make the team he had to defeat Joe Corso who was a Big Ten Champion from Purdue. It was a best 2 out of 3 scenario in which Jan beat Joe 26 – 8 in the first match because there was no technical fall back then. He then had to come back that evening but just could not pull it off the second time, losing 6-4 and 10-5. Vladimir Yumin won the Gold medal in Montreal that Olympic cycle.