(November 3, 1923 - November 15, 2008)
Glen Brand was Iowa State's first Olympic Gold Medalist in any sport when he won the 174-pound class in freestyle wrestling at the 1948 London Olympic Games.
Brand has won numerous honors and awards for his wrestling achievements, and for his support of wrestling through the years. He was a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Iowa State Hall of Fame, and his name graces the hall of fame of the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.
Brand won 51 of 54 career bouts as a Cyclone, pinning 30 of his opponents. The Cyclone star wrestled through 1948 without a blemish, compiling an 11-0 mark. The junior threw six straight opponents to earn conference and NCAA titles at 175 pounds. His triumph made him one of Iowa State's first three-time All-American wrestlers. Brand's strong junior season earned him Iowa State's Athlete-of-the-Year honor. Brand qualified for the 1948 United States Olympic team by defeating eight straight opponents at the Olympic Trials. At the London Games, Brand pinned Erik Linden of Sweden to become the first ISU athlete to earn an Olympic gold medal, winning the 174-pound class.
When Glen Brand came to Iowa State to get an engineering degree in 1946, he couldn't have imagined that just two years later, he would be in London's Wembley Stadium as the first wrestler at an Iowa college to win an Olympic Gold Medal. In fact, had it not been for a slide rule in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, he would never have started that journey at all.
Brand recorded a stellar high school wrestling career at Clarion, where he lettered three times as a grappler, and twice in football and track. Clarion is a wrestling hotbed in north central Iowa.
World War II intervened, however, and Brand spent 33 months in the Marine Corps, including a stint as a radioman on Guam. It was there that his life took a new direction.
Brand expressed an interest in engineering to a fellow Marine who immediately told him that Iowa State University had a great program for engineering. Later another soldier told him during a talk about wrestling that Iowa State had a great wrestling program. Brand took heed and the road to London began.
It didn't take long after Brand's arrival at ISU for legendary Cyclone coach Hugo Otopolik to see that this 24-year-old veteran was special. Brand didn't lose a match as a freshman (freshmen were eligible at the time) and placed third at the 1946 NCAA meet.
Otopolik knew what he was talking about. The Cyclone head coach had led the 1932 U.S. Olympic wrestling team at the Los Angeles Games.
By the time the 1948 U.S. Olympic Trials were held in Ames, everyone knew what Otopolik had known two years earlier. Brand was indeed special. He started the trials with a 36-3 record in college, including the 1948 NCAA 174-pound title, which was wrestled by Olympic rules.
Brand beat seven opponents, including Joe Scarpello of Iowa, in the Trials' final match, to earn a ticket to the London Games. Scarpello had beaten Brand in the 1947 NCAA final and Brand had beaten the Hawkeye in the 1948 NCAA championship match.
The U.S. team crossed the Atlantic bound for London on the S.S. America.
In London, the team stayed in World War II barracks, rustic after use by the British Air Force. The 1948 Olympics were quite austere as Great Britain and the world slowly recovered from World War II. The first day of the London Games, Brand missed the opening ceremonies.
When the U.S. team arrived at the Harringay Arena competition site, Brand separated himself from his American counterparts.
Brand watched the lower weight wrestling from his perch and spied his 174-pound competition. He experienced the seminal moment of his Olympic experience heading back down the steps to get ready for competition when he “realized, I could beat these wrestlers I was watching.”
In the first round, Brand beat Iran's Abbas Hairiri, 3-0. In the second round Brand pinned R.B. Arthur of Australia in 4:21, setting up a semifinal match against 31-year-old veteran Adil Candemir of Turkey. Wrestling was a national sport in Turkey and Candemir was one of his country's best.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, freestyle wrestling matches consisted of three two-minute periods. In Brand's era, the matches were physical, 15-minute dogfights. Conditioning was a huge factor and Brand knew it.
Brand was physical with his Turkish opponent, forcing Candemir into a harried pace before lifting and throwing the Turk to his back. The Turk was a beaten man. Brand went on to pin Erik Linden of Sweden in the gold medal match but his biggest thrill was yet to come.
The day after Brand won the gold medal, the award ceremonies were conducted before 95,000 fans in Wembley Stadium. Brand never forgot taking the highest plateau of the award stand, donned in his U.S. team sport coat and tie.
Brand sat out the 1949 season with a shoulder injury and returned for his final collegiate campaign in 1950. He was 7-0 when injuries ended his career at ISU and doused any dreams about returning to the Olympic Games.
Glen Brand was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1972.
Considering his numerous vocational achievements after wrestling, when Glen Brand said the Olympic medal ceremony was the biggest day of his life, it had to be a special moment indeed.
After Glen Brand graduated from Iowa State, he went on to found Brand Hydraulics in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2008, he was still working there at age 85 however that same year he passed away. The company has come a long way from 1956, when he started the firm with $400 in the bank.
Cardinal Tales, “They Went For Gold (And Got It)”, 2014, ISU Special Collections
Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame https://www.iowawrestlinghalloffame.com/inductee/glen-brand