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Merle Roths will be inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame tomorrow

In an article from 2000, Merle Roths, one of those Vinton's small town celebrities, said that he dreamed of one day being elected to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Saturday night that dream will come true at the Iowa State Wrestling Meet.

Roths, 95 who still does his pushups every day, won the 105-pound wrestling championship in 1941.

He was also a three time place winner at the state level for the Chickasaws almost 80 years ago in the 1940s.

As a sophomore in 1940, he was unbeatable until he reached the state finals. He placed 2nd in the 95 pound class.

In his junior year, Roths was the 105 pound State Champion and won the gold medal that year along with winning a state sportsmanship award for the tournament that year.

In 1942, as a senior, he placed third as a 112 pounder.

Roths was featured on the cover of the 1942 tournament program, also his last year to compete, where he again reached the finals. He competed in what is believed to be the longest match in state tournament history in 1942.

The scoreless 14-minute final against Council Bluff, Thomas Jefferson’s Bob Hunt was given to Hunt on the official’s decision after two extended overtime periods, and Roths ended the tournament in third after losing to a wrestler from Osage.

Terminology from the 40's might give wrestlers of today a chuckle. Today what is referred to as a "take down" was then referred to as a "go behind." A "reversal" today was then called an "escape and go behind in the same motion".

Scoring was also a bit different. if you intentionally released your opponent, it was worth two points.

In the 40s, there was just one class of wrestlers, instead of the current three. Now we have 16 wrestlers in each weight, but when Roths competed there were only 8 at the state competition. Another change from then to now, is that there were only 10 weight categories.

The 1942 tournament also included a person who would later become associated with a big name in wrestling.

There was a young man from Eagle Grove named Bob Siddens. Siddens finished second in the 135 pound category and later became a longtime coach in Waterloo's West High School where he won many state titles.

That might not mean anything to most of you, but if I said that one of his students was, Dan Gable, then you'd know the rest of the story.

In 2000, Roths was inducted into the New Hampton Hall of Fame. Being recognized as the first New Hampton wrestler to be a place winner in three different state tournaments, and the 4th in the school to win a state wrestling title.

Merle and his wife Evelyn, started their life together here in Vinton at the St. Mary's church in 1948 The couple then moved to New Hampton where Merle's family lived but later returned to Vinton where Roths assisted with the introduction of Vinton’s school wrestling program.

Congratulations Merle on this great Honor!

Photo from the Hall of Fame:

From L-R: Jimmy Rodgers, Bill Plein, Trent Goodale, Mark Bertsch, Mark Rial, Josh Watts, and Merle Roths.

Photo credit Tucker Photo/IHSAA.

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