From the Sun archives: June 11, 1992 ‘No one wrestles like Alger’
August 03, 2017
Editor's note: Royce Alger's induction into the Cedar County Hall of Fame presented an opportunity to look again at the Lisbon High School graduate's remarkable wrestling career, which included state championships, NCAA national championships, World Cup championships and medals at the World Championships and Goodwill Games.
This story about Alger's efforts at the Olympic trials appeared on the front page in 1992 and was written by Lisbon's own Mike Conklin, Cornell College class of 1969, a Chicago Tribune writer and communications professor at DePaul University.
barely misses Olympic Team
Special to the Sun
As travelers wound their way up a long ramp in the Pittsburgh airport to board a United flight headed for Chicago, they could look back and see a solitary, hulking figure sitting in a seat by himself in the nearly-deserted waiting area.
Royce Alger was bent over, his elbows propped on his knees and his face buried in his hands.
This was probably the first time in 12 hours the weary Alger was alone with his thoughts. And, though there were no tears, the scene seemed to sum up the previous day's heartbreak.
By the narrowest of margins, Royce Alger of Lisbon missed a chance to represent the United States in this summer's Olympic Games' freestyle competition in Barcelona, Spain.
Against Kevin Jackson, an old rival from Iowa State he had defeated five of the last seven times they had met, Alger was edged 1-0 in 7:29 of overtime in the first match in the afternoon. Then he dropped a 2-0 decision in the evening's deciding match in the best-of-three Trials' format conducted by USA Wrestling officials.
"No one wrestles like Alger," said Jackson. "He puts a lot of pressure on you. If you don't know how to wrestle against Royce, you can't win."
Their Olympic matchup was a classic that captivated the audience.
It started with the obvious: Royce Alger, a burly, light-haired, small-town Iowan with rural roots against Kevin Jackson, an African-American city kid from Michigan with a completely shaved head.
In the end, maybe former Lisbon coach Al Baxter, one of a number from Iowa who made the trip to the Duquesne University campus in Pittsburgh to cheer the former Lion, summed it up best.
"It's Royce's strength, heart and iron will against Jackson's quickness and technique," said Baxter. "There were times Kevin got in so deep for takedowns that I didn't think there was any way Royce could avoid it, but he did it just through his own determination. Very few could make some of the moves Jackson did, but very few could've done what Royce did."
Jackson had come into the trials as the No. 1 man at the weight while Alger earned a spot as the No. 1 challenger through the pre-trails two weeks earlier in Philadelphia. There, Alger beat Melvin Douglas by disqualification in overtime at 8:00 and followed with a 3-0 victory to clinch the challenger's shot at Jackson, who had earned the No. 1 ranking by whipping Douglas in the previous John E. duPont-sponsored U.S. trials.
There is an outside chance Alger could end up in Barcelona as an alternate, but it's slim. For all practical purposes, the season is over and the 27-year-old will have to wait four more years for a shot at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
U.S. Coach Bobby Douglas - now the coach at Iowa State - noted after the Pittsburgh competition the trend toward older wrestlers in this country, made possible by an improved support program from USA Wrestling. Four team athletes on the U.S. team going to Spain are over 30 years old.
Whether or not Alger tries again for an Olympic berth, he can console himself with this thought: He is a world-class competitor who's reached a plateau only a few athletes will ever know in sports.
Alger has traveled all over the world to defeat wrestlers in cities he could never imagine as a youth. He has defeated foreign wrestlers from foreign lands who earned a World Cup championship in 1991, world silver medal in 1991 and a bronze medal in the 1990 Goodwill Games.
In the 1990-91 season, for instance, he competed in two different tournaments in the Soviet Union. There has been a U.S. National championship and there were two NCAA championships at the University of Iowa. Fans of the Lisbon program are aware of his three Iowa high school titles.