Jospeh Corso ’73 was inducted into Leroy Keyes Purdue Athletics Hall of Fame

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Hall of Fame: Quest for Success Motivated Purdue's Corso on the Matt
The first-ever Olympian for Purdue Wrestling, Joe Corso also won a Big Ten title during his collegiate career     

Joe Corso's journey to wrestling greatness was long and unconventional. In each phase of his life, he had to fight to find success.

A Des Moines, Iowa, native, Corso was hooked on wrestling in junior high, learning at a young age what it meant to compete with discipline and heart. It was the start of a journey that would carry him to Purdue and beyond.

By all accounts, he took one of the most unique paths to the top of collegiate wrestling. He won his first and only state championship at 112 pounds as a senior for West Des Moines Valley High School in 1971. The title helped him earn a spot on the Northern Iowa Community College wrestling team, where he was a two-time NJCAA Division II All-American at 118 pounds and helped the Trojans earn the school's first-ever team national championship in 1973.

From there it was off to West Lafayette, where a phenomenal senior year etched him into the Purdue Wrestling record books forever. He moved up a weight class and things all seemed to fall into place.

"I spent my first three years cutting weight to 118 pounds. My senior year I went up a weight and it made a huge difference," Corso told the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame upon his induction to their ranks. "I concentrated on technique and mental toughness, and it all came together for me."

In 1975, wrestling at 126 pounds, he became a Big Ten Conference champion and was named the Big Ten Tournament's Outstanding Wrestler after his dominant performance. He would follow that up by becoming the program's 23rd All-American with an incredible six-win run to a bronze medal as the No. 6 seed at the NCAA Championships.

Even in a short time, he made a long-lasting impact as a Boilermaker. He finished his collegiate career with the fifth-best winning percentage in program history and is one of only 15 Boilermakers to have placed third or higher at the NCAA tournament.

"It was then that I realized my head hadn't been on right. I needed to stay mentally tough," Corso recalled to the IWHOF. "That resulted in me wrestling with confidence and I knew I wasn't done with wrestling because I knew I could get better. It was not an ego thing."

And it would indeed get better for Corso. He would go on to be the first Purdue wrestler to compete at the Olympic Games when he made the team in 1976. Corso won his first match in the 125.5-pound weight class over Allah Ditta of Pakistan, 20-8. After the initial victory, Corso took over the No. 1 world ranking temporarily before dropping his next two matches. He was also an alternate for the Olympic squad in 1984.

Shining bright on the world stage, he became a ten-time national freestyle champion, earned bronze at the 1979 World Championships and won a title at the 1979 Pan-American Games.

"I just wish I could do it over again," Corso said years later. "It was fun, it was a lot of work. I learned if you keep an open mind, stay mentally tough and minimize your mistakes, you can continue to get better."

After his wrestling days were over, he continued to compete and made a name for himself as a coach. He served stints as an assistant coach for Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana in the collegiate ranks in addition to time coaching high school, club and national teams. He was named as the first-ever USA Wrestling Women's Coach of the Year for his work with the U.S. Women's World Team. He also served as a freestyle coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club and USA Wrestling for more than 32 years.

Undeniably one of the most accomplished graduates of the Purdue Wrestling program, he joins Arnold Plaza (Class of '94), Joe Patacsil (Class of '99), Claude Reeck (Class of '00), Charles Jones (Class of '03), Casey Fredericks (Class of '04) and Dave and Joe Lilovich (Class of '09) as Boilermakers that donned the Old Gold and Black singlet to be inducted into the Leroy Keyes Purdue Athletics Hall of Fame.

Honorees or their representatives will be publicly honored at Mackey Arena during the Purdue Men's Basketball game against Ohio State on Sunday, Feb. 19. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

By William Soulé, Assistant Strategic Communications Director - Purdue Athletics