North Canton’s Francis “Butch” Paquin faced Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp at the 1967 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships
Kent State University always will hold a special place in Curley Culp’s heart.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle won an NCAA Division I wrestling title there in 1967 as an Arizona State heavyweight. He pinned three opponents, including Adams State’s Nick Carollo in 51 seconds in the championship match.
North Canton’s Francis “Butch” Paquin had a little more success against Culp at Kent State.
Wrestling for Lehigh, Paquin lost his second-round match to Culp by decision 15-5. He was the only opponent Culp didn’t pin at the national championships.
Paquin recalls almost a half century later how physical the match was.
“I have to say that I never experienced human strength to the level of Curley Culp,” Paquin said. “It wasn’t that he was a great technical wrestler. His strategy was just to get his hands on his opponent and destroy him with his strength.”
Paquin was a formidable high school wrestler. He became Hoover’s first state champion in 1965, when he won the heavyweight division. Paquin did not have a point scored against him as a high school senior until his 24th match. He also helped lead the Vikings to the team title.
College wrestling teams from the East were not exposed to teams from the West in the 1960s. Paquin never heard of Culp before the 1967 national finals.
Paquin first met Culp at the weigh in. It was an eye-opening experience for Paquin and Penn State’s Mike Reid, who went on to star in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say we were both astounded,” Paquin said. “His arms were literally the size of legs, and believe me, they were all muscle.”
Paquin beat Maryland’s Tom Sinbaldi 4-0 in the first round and advanced to face Culp, who received a bye. Culp rolled up 15 points against Paquin.
“It is probably the most points I had ever had scored on me,” Paquin said. “Over the years when folks would say I should be pleased that Curley did not pin me, I would tell them that he was very fresh at the time of the tournament. He threw me so hard that I bounced high enough to turn over before I came back down on the mat.
“After the match, we did have a short chat, and I found Curley to be a real gentleman. He was a fine person who may have known it was his year.”
Paquin was very pleased to see Culp elected to the Hall of Fame. His job in the Timken Company’s Philadelphia office prevented him from seeing Culp’s football games often.
“I do clearly remember one game where they announced that Curley was named the strongest man in the NFL,” Paquin said. “I guess that says it all about the strength of this man.”