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Heath Hotzler, Published December 14 2007

Dragons’ Garland a legend

In the 1960s, Moorhead State wrestling coach Bill Garland made his team king of the campus.

Hundreds of fans packed into the fieldhouse to watch the NAIA Dragons take on the NCAA Division I elite.

And, under Garland’s leadership, the Dragons rarely disappointed.

“He had a little edge to him,” longtime MSUM sports information director Larry Scott said of Garland, who died Sunday in Fargo at age 79. “I kind of feel, in some ways, Bill didn’t get the credit he deserved. I think Bill really put wrestling on the map.”

Nicknamed “The Silver Fox,” Garland came to MSUM in 1958 and immediately began to securing the building blocks for a successful program.

With area prep wrestling in its infancy, Garland looked to the more established East Coast. Garland in 1961 nabbed Bucky Maughan, who put together a string of

70-consecutive victories as a Pennsylvania prep.

Bob Billberg came from Illinois that same year. John Morely came from New York a couple of years later.

Others followed.

“I think the eastern kids looked at this place as kind of a steal financially,” Scott said. “And not that many state schools had wrestling back then. Then it was word of mouth.

“They got Bucky, they got Bob Billberg, and they would spread the gospel of Moorhead State wrestling.”

Garland’s eye for talent on the recruiting trail led to an NAIA national team title in 1964. The Dragons also finished ninth at the NCAA Division I tournament. Teams were allowed to compete at both levels in those days, depending on their finish at the NAIA level.

Maughan earned the NAIA 123-pound championship and Division I 115-pound champion in 1963.

Billberg twice was a Division I runner up at heavyweight in 1964 and 1966.

In his 28 years, Garland coached 52 All-Americans and 11 national champions.

And, rumor has it, Garland’s success and public support of MSUM wrestling may have helped spare the program from the Title IX chopping block during the 1980s.

“They were cutting programs left and right in those days,” said current Dragons wrestling coach Keenan Spiess, who talked with Garland several times about the program’s glory years. “From what I heard, he saved wrestling here. That means a lot. It is a big deal to be able to save a program.”

Odds and ends

Concordia baseball coach Bucky Burgau will host a winter baseball skills camp Jan. 2-5 at the Olson Forum on the Concordia campus. Open to players in grades 4-9, the camp will include an appearance by former Cobber standout and current major leaguer Chris Coste. More information can be found at http://www.cord.edu/dept/sports/spring/bs/baseballcamp08.php. … University of North Dakota senior receiver Weston Dressler was named to the Associated Press Little All-America team for the second-consecutive season. Dressler finished with

76 receptions for 1,272 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Readers can reach Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562 or hhotzler@forumcomm.com. Hotzler’s small college blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com Dragons’ Garland a legend Heath Hotzler 20071214