Dan Brand’s path to an Olympic wrestling medal was anything but typical.
He competed in football, basketball and track at Bellevue High, but never was all-conference.
He made the Nebraska freshman team in basketball, but after being cut from the varsity as a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 Brand signed up for the intramural wrestling tournament.
“I beat the kid who was supposed to be Nebraska’s heavyweight,” Brand said.
Brand went on to place fifth in the 1960 Olympics and won a bronze medal in the 1964 Olympics. It was the only wrestling medal the United States won at those Games. Brand also won a bronze in the 1962 world meet.
But Brand wasn’t always that successful. He struggled in his early days, finishing 3-15 as a sophomore heavyweight at NU. He improved to .500 as a junior before placing fourth as a senior in 1958 in his only NCAA meet.
Bill Smith, a 1952 Olympic gold medalist, took over as NU’s coach for Brand’s senior year.
“There is not one chance I would have made the Olympics without Bill,” Brand said. “He taught me everything.”
In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Brand dropped a controversial bout to 1960 gold medalist Hasan Gungor of Turkey in the semifinals.
“Dan got ripped off,” Smith said. “He won on the scoreboard when the match ended, but one of the judges decided he had the score wrong. He got a raw deal.”
Brand was elected into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011, a year after being elected into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. He died in February of 2015 at the age of 79.
Played for: Lincoln Northeast High, Bellevue High, Nebraska Cornhuskers and U.S. Olympic team
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Jim Raschke of Omaha North, who placed third in the Greco-Roman world wrestling meet in 1963. He went on to fame as the fictitious German pro wrestler Baron Von Raschke.
Best moment as an athlete: Winning the bronze medal in wrestling at the 1964 Olympics
Brand was No. 58 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »