May 16, 2002
Newport Beach, Calif. -
Frank Horpel, father of longtime Stanford wrestling head coach Chris Horpel, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Horpel accepted the award on behalf of his late father.
Below are the highlights from Frank Horpel's life and career and his son's acceptance speech.
Franklin Elton Horpel, Jr. Highlights
*1937 Graduated from Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA; Four-year wrestler for coach Bill Geyer.
*1941 Graduated from Penn State University in University Park, PA; Four-year wrestler for coach Charlie Speidel. Majored in journalism.
*1941 Served as an officer in the Marine Corps for six years. Left with the rank of captain; was a paratrooper in the First Marine Airborn Division. Fought in the Pacific during World War II.
*1944 Married Leonie Agramonte. Had three boys who wrestled in high school and/or college.
*1947 Started his own drywall company and later his own construction company building track and custom homes.
*1959 Head coach at Mater Dei High School for three years. Produced Orange County's first Soutern Section CIF champion (Lou Monville @ 123 pounds). Volunteered for over 20 years as a wrestling official, especially in the local AAU freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments.
*1965 Started a wrestling club at the brand-new Orange Coast YMCA in Newport Beach, CA. This club quickly became one of the most competitive in the state, and for that matter, the country.
*1969 Won the Junior World Team Trials. The Orange Coast "Y" club took first place in Greco Roman and second in freestyle at the Junior National Championships in Worland, WY. Two freestyle and three Greco-Roman "Y" wrestlers made the USA team that competed in the FILA Junior World Championships in Boulder, CO later that summer.
*1973 Served as the event director for the USA-Soviet Union dual meet at the Long Beach Convention Center - it drew one of the largest crowds to date for this kind of competition.
*1990 Inducted into the Orange County Wrestling Coaches' Association Hall of Fame.
*1992 Died from Parkinson's Disease.
*2002 Inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with a "Lifetime of Service to Wrestling" award. Although only a volunteer, amateur wrestling was a very intense hobby for Frank Horpel. He helped bring the National Open in Greco-Roman to the West Coast on four occasions in the 1970's. He hosted many cultural exchange teams from countries in Asia and as well as other countries south of the US border. He also coached his club program until his Parkinson's illness prevented him from continuing in the late-1970's.A firm believer in education, Frank Horpel's ongoing goal was to use wrestling to keep kids on track, both socially and academically, and to help his athletes attend college. He enabled over 100 wrestlers to receive athletic scholarships or gain admission to the colleges of their choice.
Acceptance speech for Franklin E. Horpel, Jr. by Chris Horpel (May 3, 2002)
My name is Chris Horpel and I have coached wrestling at Stanford University for the past 23 years and for the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club for the past six. My father, Frank Horpel, died 10 years ago from Parkinson's disease, so I am accepting this award in his place.
Most of you knew my dad and knew that he had a unique voice, so tonight when I occasionally sound like Clint Eastwood, I am actually doing my best "Frank Horpel impersonation." (Everybody used to impersonate him!)
From my perspective, it all started when I was in the second grade. I realized something had changed in our household when strangers started calling and asking for "coach." "Is coach there?" I was too young to fully comprehend what this meant...that he had become the head coach at Mater Dei High School, which was just around the corner from our house in Santa Ana. After all, my dad already had a full-time job and in fact already worked most weekends. He was a developer who built track homes all over Southern California.
However, his passion for wrestling was intense. He first discovered wrestling when he was a freshman at Upper Darby High School in Philadelphia and then continued at Penn State under future Hall of Fame coach Charlie Speidel. As he always used to say, "Penn State is the only Eastern school ever to win the NCAA Championship in wrestling." Speidel REALLY made an impression on my dad. However, World War II was raging when he graduated in '41, and, like a lot of young men his age, he enlisted and became a special forces paratrooper in the Marine Corps (kind of like a Navy Seal before the Navy Seals existed).
When the war ended and the Olympics resumed in 1948, my dad started doing "road work," as he called it. By this time my parents had been married for almost four years. And when my mom noticed this sudden enthusiasm for getting in shape, she asked, "Why are you running so much?" My dad responded with "I'm trying out for the Olympic Team." "In what?" my mom asked. She had no idea that he had ever wrestled before! And she had no way of knowing how deeply wrestling would effect the rest of our lives. Although my dad lost in his Olympic effort, he would later find that coaching fulfilled his desire to "give back" to his favorite sport.
As a wrestling coach, my dad developed some interesting philosophies. He had a way of making his athletes REALLY believe in themselves. Believe they could beat anybody. Believe they were learning the absolute best technique...technique that was better and more advanced than whatever the competition was learning. (Over the years I found that his technique was good, but not unique (but he sure made us believe it was at the time). He also coached his athletes to do the "big moves," the techniques that would end in a fall or at least score big. He believed it was good for the wrestler and good for the fan. "I like scoring in bunches," he used to say. "Why get a two-point takedown when you can get five?" While cornering his athletes he could invariably be heard yelling "Go to the body," meaning attack your opponent with some kind of bear hug, throw him and pin him. This philosophy made people think of him as primarily a Greco-Roman coach. However, my dad thought of himself simply as a coach who, among other things, taught lots of upper body freestyle.
He started the wrestling program at Mater Dei High School. He started the wrestling program at the Orange Coast YMCA. He assisted at most of the local community colleges. He produced national champions and world medalists at every level. He was instrumental at getting the Greco-Roman US Nationals to the West Coast in the 1970s at USIU, Estancia High School, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State. He was the event director for the 1974 USA-Soviet Union dual meet at the Long Beach Convention Center. He was very involved.
But, perhaps, more than anything, what separated my dad from other coaches was his strong belief in a college education. In our family, a strong effort in both school are athletics was not optional, it was required. In fact, for him, one's college education was the primary purpose in learning to wrestle. Ultimately, he believed in using wrestling as a tool, a vehicle to help get one's college education. He prided himself on the number of athletes he coached who became first-generation college graduates. And how many athletic scholarships they received. And that he made college an option for many parents and athletes who never imagined they would be able to afford college.
I am perhaps his best example for this...without my dad's help, I would never have been able to gain admission to Stanford or receive a wrestling scholarship there.
So, on behalf of my father, Franklin E. Horpel, Jr, thank you very much for this honor. This "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" award means a great deal to my family and me.