Editor's Note: “A Look at Times Gone By” is an in-depth look at weekly Times Gone By entries compiled since 2015. These articles represent the history of Washington County sports.
After earning four-straight all-conference selections on the gridiron, Nebraska football legend Tom Novak became the first Cornhusker to have his No. 60 jersey permanently retired in 1949.
The 206-pound two-way player, who held down the center and linebacker positions, visited Blair about two years later for something different altogether. Alongside former teammate Mike DiBiase, “Train Wreck” Novak shared a professional wrestling ring with The Golden Terror at Vets Field.
“For the first time in more than 20 years, an honest-to-goodness wrestling match is scheduled to take place in Blair,” the July 19, 1951, Enterprise reported.
Promotion and ticket information for the July 30 event were the centerpiece of four weeks' worth of sports pages that month. The event was a Vets Field Activity Committee fundraiser designed to raise money to repaint the baseball diamond's stadium seats and fund other minor improvements.
Three matches were announced for the Blair event with reports of ticket sales going at a “brisk” pace. The $1.50 ringside and $1 bleacher seats were sold at Nelson Bros. Clothing, Advance Cleaners, Washington County Bank and by Walt Petersen at Vinton Chevrolet Co.
DiBiase, a former NCAA Wrestling Championships qualifier and Nebraska football player, and The Golden Terror — a masked wrestler from Boston — competed to a time-limit draw with Novak upholding the rules.
One rule, however, may have slipped by the Husker, though. Reportedly, DiBiase — who later went by the nickname “Iron Mike” on his way to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame — turned Terror's mask around, blinding the wrestling villain as he was thrown from the ring to the Washington County dirt.
In the second match of the night, Joyce Ford of Dallas topped Beverly Lehmer of Council Bluffs, Iowa, in a two-out-of-three falls match with a body press.
Then, in the main event, Novak counted a pinfall victory for “Dirty” Joe Dusek of the famed, Omaha-based Dusek Brothers over Jack Conley. Dusek, another no-good villain character, won by an illegal hair drag and press under the lights.
All told, the former Nebraska Cornhuskers and professional wrestlers entertained an approximate crowd of 850 at Blair's Vets Field with their theatrics. The event earned more than $1,000, but left just $200 for stadium seat paint after taxes and other expenditures.