The Trumbull County Sports Hall of Fame will induct 12 new members during enshrinement ceremonies this past October.
The organization’s 19th class includes Brian Beinecke (football), the late George A. Bollas (wrestling), Vanness “Van” Brandon (football), Tony Davis (football), Bill Dreier (contribution to sports, official), Nia Grant (volleyball), Larry Kempe (football, coach), the late Richard Raidel (football), Tom Raphtis (football), Bob Todd (golf, coach), Dan Williams (football, coach) and Mandy Zolciak Willis (basketball).
Call him by his aliases – “The Mystery Man,” “Greek Hercules,” “The Intercollegiate Dark Secret,“ “The Zebra Kid” or even the “Golden Terror.”
This year’s wrestling inductee was one of the most feared grapplers once he entered the ring and opponents knew before entering that the canvas mat surrounded by rope that this was his and only his domain.
Born in Warren on September 19, 1923, he is the only wrestler in this year’s class, rightfully so because he stood alone in his sport.
He played football at Warren G. Harding High School, graduating in 1939.
Upon graduation, he enrolled at The Ohio State University where at 5’ 11” and 320 pounds wrestled for the Buckeyes.
A tremendous athlete who excelled in both sports, his presence was felt immediately as he won the Big Ten Conference championship as a freshman, adding a second conference title his sophomore season and on March 23, 1946, defeated Morris Chitwood of Indiana University to win the NCAA heavyweight title.
During 1946-47, he occasionally worked for Ohio promoter, Al Haft, as “The Mystery Man” looking to earn extra money while still in college, turning pro during the latter part of 1947 and working full-time for Haft before moving to New York.
In 1948, he wrestled in New York as “The Greek Hercules” before being banned from New York for igniting a riot.
In 1948 he traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina where he wrestled as “The Intercollegiate Dark Secret” and during that time, “The Zebra Kid” was born.
He became known as “The Zebra Kid” because of the stretch marks on his body from fluctuating weight and on July 7, 1949, defeated Buddy Rogers for the Ohio version of the world heavyweight title.
On November 8, 1951, Lou Thesz defeated the Zebra Kid to retain the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight title in Toledo but later that month, wrestled Whipper Billy Watson to a Curfew Draw in the Toronto Territory.
In 1952, he ventured to San Francisco where he feuded extensively with Rikidozan and in September of that year, along with Hans Schnabel, defeated Gino Garibaldi and former Minnesota Golden Gophers and San Francisco 49ers football star, Leo Nomellini, for the Pacific Coast Tag Team title.
In December of 1952, the Zebra Kid defeated Sandor Szabo for the “Beat the Champ International Television Title” in Los Angeles, briefly abandoning his Zebra Kid gimmick thereafter while wrestling with considerably less success.
By October of 1954, he worked for Honolulu promoter Al Karasick and on April 10, 1955, defeated Lucky Simunovich for the NWA: Hawaii Heavyweight title.
That same year he defeated Rikidozan by DQ when Rikidozan went nuts and ripped Zebra Kid’s mask off, resulting in a suspension for Rikidozan from NWA: Hawaii.
In December, 1955, he fell to Al Lolotai for the NWA: Hawaii heavyweight title in the United States and from 1956-57 in Georgia Championship Wrestling, had stints in both Columbus and Tennessee.
On March 23, 1957, the Zebra Kid defeated Bob McCune for the Ohio State title in Columbus and after a match with Bearcat Wright on July 13, 1957, was attacked in the parking lot by a mob of fans.
In August of 1957, Buddy Rogers unmasked the Zebra Kid in Mansfield and they repeated the angle the following night in Columbus.
By 1958, he had an extended working tour overseas for Capitol Wrestling, working in Australia and New Zealand. By February of, 1959, he returned to the United States to work for Capitol Wrestling, feuding with Johnny Valentine.
He formed a tag team with Jim Austeri known as The Zebra Kids – Big Zebra (Bollas) and Little Zebra (Austeri), moving to Texas for his next stint.
In June of 1960, he defeated The Golden Giant for the Texas Brass Knucks title, subsequently losing the title to Danny McShane in Houston.
He toured Europe, including England, Paris and Athens, going on to defeat Greek hero, Lambrakis, before a crowd of 43,000 people.
From 1961-65, he took on the very best, had multiple rematches, traveled to Japan and later promoted matches in Greece.
In 1968, he retired and moved to Akron after suffering a serious eye injury in Germany.
His ring appearances had an electrifying effect on the audience as he was an engaging character with an outgoing, cheerful smile
He passed away on January 28, 1977, at age 53 and truly was an unforgettable wrestler during an era when wrestling ruled the entertainment industry.
He was also inducted into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame.