The IHSA Wrestling State Final Tournament dates back to the 1936-37 school year and was held annually until the 1943-44 school year. In 1944, the IHSA did not hold a state final tournament due to a low numbers of participants, something that can be partly attributed to War World II.
Regardless, a group of coaches banned together and decided to host an invitational “state” tournament of sorts that was hosted by Champaign High School at the Champaign Junior High School gymnasium. The tournament was covered in a number of newspapers around the state, with many referring to it as the “state” tournament.
Former Joliet Central High School wrestling coach Pat O’Connell has conducted research on the 1944 unofficial state tournament, including results and newspaper coverage from the Champaign News-Gazette, Joliet Herald News and Rock Island Argus, which can be viewed by clicking below:
1944 Unofficial Wrestling State Tournament Information
In the January/February 1943 edition of the IHSA Membership Magazine, The Illinois Interscholastic, then University of Illinois wrestling coach H.E. Kenney (of Kenney Gymnasium namesake) wrote an opinion piece touting the merits of continuing high school wrestling programs in war time. The piece wasn’t enough to keep the official tourney going in 1944, but when it returned in 1945 there were 30 competing teams, five more than in 1943 (432 competed in 2014). Kenney's story is posted below.
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