Born in 1915 in Detroit Lakes, Wally’s father was a Stone Mason and he must have learned from an early age how to be tough. His biographical details are sparse but at the advanced age of 26, Wally was still playing football for Bernie Bierman at the U of M. While at the U of M Wally also boxed and wrestled. After his glorious career at the U ended in 1942 Wally enlisted in the US Navy and served as a Lt. Commander during World War II.
After the War he briefly cut his coaching teeth leading programs at South Dakota State and Luther before taking over the U of M job in 1952. From his Gophers Hall Of Fame Bio:
In his 34 years as coach of the Gophers, his wrestling squad posted a 392-209-11 (.650) record. Here he also captured Big Ten championships in 1957 and 1959, coached 35 individual Big Ten champions, four NCAA champs, and more than 40 All-Americans.
A founding member of USA Wrestling, Johnson was the organization’s first president. He was 1976 NCAA Coach of the Year, was inducted into the David Bartelma Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977, and was named a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1985.
But mostly I wanted ya’ll to learn about Wally because of these awesome pictures of him. I mean scroll back up to the lead art and take a close look at that photo. What the heck is going on the background? Also sweet jacket. And now this one. This is one of the most ‘LOL’ staged photographs I’ve ever seen.