More than four decades have passed since intercollegiate boxing was dropped, first at Washington State University following the 1959 season, and nationally in 1961.
Isaac “Ike” Deeter established the college boxing program at Washington State College in 1932 and coached for 24 years. He also taught men’s physical education courses until retiring in 1967.
“I hated to see boxing go, but I realize the circumstances,” he says. Competition in the Pacific Northwest was too hard to find. Idaho State, Sacramento State, and San Jose State were the nearest opponents. For other matches, WSU had to travel to the Midwest and Big Ten Conference. The cost of transportation became prohibitive.
NCAA-sanctioned collegiate boxing suffered a severe setback in 1960. In a match to decide the NCAA title at 165 pounds, San Jose State’s Stu Bartell landed a second-round punch to Charlie Mohr’s left temple. The University of Wisconsin fighter dropped to the canvas in the Wisconsin Fieldhouse. He took a mandatory nine count. The fight ended 1:49 minutes into the round. Later Mohr fell unconscious in the dressing room. Eight days later he died.
Both SJS and Wisconsin dropped the sport; so did other schools after the season. The following January, the NCAA did likewise, citing the lack of boxing programs rather than the inherit dangers of the sport.
Recalling the circumstances, Deeter slowly shook his head from side to side and said, “That was a sad day.” He lives at Bishop Place, a Pullman retirement community. His handshake is firm. Moments earlier, he’d clicked off the television so he could hear better and picked up the conversation about the sport close to his heart.
Those who know boxing say that to be successful, one has to understand the sport and be interesting in it. Deeter did and was. The Hartline native fought as a 160-pounder during his days at North Central High in Spokane. He was Golden Gloves champion in 1927 and 1928.
His record speaks for itself. In 1932, he directed the Cougars to the first of eight Pacific Coast Conference titles. The one-time dean of college boxing coaches produced 53 PCC champions. His fighters won 15 individual NCAA titles.
Boxing enjoyed its heyday under Deeter. The 1936 WSC-University of Wisconsin match in Madison drew 14,300 fans, the largest crowd for an intercollegiate match. The next year, the Cougars claimed the U.S. National Intercollegiate Tournament at Sacramento.
“Boxing is the greatest socializer we have,” Deeter once said. “When a man beats you, you respect him regardless of his race, creed, or nationality. You respect him because you know he had to make sacrifices to get into top physical shape.”
Deeter always had his fighters prepared. “Pooch” Petragallo (1937), Ed McKinnon (1937), Ev Conley (1950-51), Gordy Gladson (1956-58), Dick Rall (1956-58), Jesse Klinkenberg (1958), and Bobby Cornwall (1959) were among the best.
“Yeah, he was good,” Deeter says, responding to each name in the litany. He considers McKinnon, a 160-pound middleweight and member of his 1937 National Championship team, as “probably my best fighter.”
Pete Rademacher, one of the top boxers to graduate from Washington State, was ineligible to compete in college but would spar with the Cougar heavyweights. He lost in the 1952 Olympic Trials but came back four years later to win the Gold Medal in Melbourne by knocking out Russian heavyweight Lev Moukhine two minutes into the fight. In his first professional bout in 1957, Rademacher floored world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in the second round but lost on a sixth-round TKO at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle.
Legendary Washington State College football coach Babe Hollingbery recruited Deeter to play end. Had it not been for a knee injury that ended Ike’s promising gridiron career as a freshman, the Cougars may never have had a boxing program. After completing a degree at WSC (’29 Phys. Educ.), he was hired as coach by his alma mater in 1931.
Deeter joined a coaching fraternity that included Hollingbery, Jack Friel (basketball), Buck Bailey (baseball), and Karl Schlademan and Jack Mooberry (track and field). Asked the best advice he’d received from his coaching peers, Deeter says Hollingbery once told him, “Make the kids go to class.”
During World War II, Deeter served with the U.S. Navy as an instructor at the pre-flight school at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, and later at the University of Georgia.
WSU dedicated the Ike Deeter Gray W Room in Bohler Gym in 1970. Three years later, Deeter received the WSU Alumni Achievement Award for “unselfish and dedicated service to his alma mater as a good will ambassador, educator in physical education and boxing coach.” When the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame was opened in 1978, Deeter was one of the inaugural inductees.
More than 150 friends, including former colleagues and Cougar boxers, attended Deeter’s 100th birthday celebration July 20. He says, “If someone told me when I was 75 that I’d live to be 100, I would have told them they were crazy.”