Harold Nichols

Harold Nichols (March 22, 1917 – February 22, 1997) was an American collegiate wrestler and wrestling coach. As a coach, primarily at Iowa State, he won six NCAA Championships over 37 seasons. Nichols' wrestlers won 38 NCAA individual championships and seven medals at the Olympics.

Harold Nichols
Harold Nichols.jpg
Harold Nichols an NCAA Championship trophy
Biographical details
BornMarch 22, 1917
Cresco, Iowa
DiedFebruary 22, 1997(1997-02-22) (aged 79)
Ames, Iowa
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1948Arkansas State (assistant)
1948–1949Arkansas State (assistant)
Track & Field
1948–149Arkansas State
1948–1949Arkansas State
1949–1953Arkansas State
1953–1985Iowa State
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors

College wrestlerEdit

A native of Cresco, Iowa, Nichols attended the University of Michigan to wrestle under legendary wrestling coach, Cliff Keen. While at Michigan, Nichols won the NCAA wrestling championship of 1939 in the 145-pound weight class.[1] He interrupted his college studies to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II as a pilot, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. After the war, he received a master's degree at the University of Illinois and a doctorate at Michigan.[2]

Wrestling coachEdit

Arkansas StateEdit

After finishing his schooling, Nichols began his coaching career at Arkansas State in 1948. The school did not have a wrestling program yet so he served as an assistant in football and basketball and the head coach in track & field as well as swimming.[3] In 1949 he was able to implement a wrestling program and amass a 37-18-3 record in five seasons.[4]

Iowa StateEdit

When Hugo Otopalik unexpectedly died in 1953, Harold Nichols was the only person Iowa State interviewed to replace him. He would go on to helm the Iowa State wrestling program for 32 years. During his time at Iowa State, his teams went 492–93–14 in addition to not finishing outside the top four at the NCAA Tournament from 1957-1983.[5] His teams won six NCAA Championships in 1965, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1977 and seven Big Eight Championships 1958, 1970, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982. His wrestlers won 38 individual NCAA championships, 91 individual Big Eight Championships and seven Olympic medals.[5][6]

He was considered to be "ahead of his time concerning race relations," and was a pioneer in bringing minorities into college wrestling, including African Americans, Hispanics and Cubans.[2]

Nichols' pupil, Dan Gable, went on to coach wrestling at the University of Iowa for 21 years.[7]

Nichols retired in 1985.[4]

Pottery collectorEdit

In addition to wrestling, Nichols had a passion for collecting pottery. In 1983, he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman with a seven-foot-tall vase from his collection, considered one of the world's largest.[8]


Nichols was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1983.[9] He was named national coach of the year three times and Wrestling Man of the Year by Amateur Wrestling News. He was also inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame,[10] the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame[11] and the Helms Foundation Wrestling Hall of Fame.[12]

Family and deathEdit

Nichols died in February 1997 at age 79 in Ames, Iowa.[13] He was survived by his wife, Ruth, and sons William and Harold.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Harold Nichols, NCAA Wrestling Champion - University of Michigan Athletics". www.bentley.umich.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  2. ^ a b "The Iowa Stater, May 1997". 2008-10-29. Archived from the original on 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  3. ^ Halsted, Alex; Montz, Dyland (2015). "Chapter 30: Harold Nichols". 100 Things Iowa State Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Chicago: Triumph Books. pp. 109–113. ISBN 9781629371078.
  4. ^ a b "Harold Nichols: Legendary coach made ISU wrestling a national powerhouse -". Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  5. ^ a b Live " + fromNow + ". "Iowa State Athletics" (PDF). Cyclones.com. Retrieved 2017-01-21.
  6. ^ "Olympic Team History". Team USA. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  7. ^ "GALLERY: Legendary career in retrospective -- a few favorite Dan Gable tales | The Gazette". The Gazette. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  8. ^ "Kroeschell's 25 years at Iowa State". NCAA.com. 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  9. ^ "Harold Nichols, NCAA Wrestling Champion - University of Michigan Athletics". bentley.umich.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  10. ^ "Harold Nichols | National Wrestling Hall of Fame". nwhof.org. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  11. ^ www.irocwebs.com, iroc web design services -. "Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame | Cresco, Iowa". www.iowawrestlinghalloffame.com. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  12. ^ "Official Scholastic Official" (PDF). 1973. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  13. ^ "Harold Nichols Wrestling Coach, 79". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1997-02-24. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-26.