Following an outstanding high school wrestling career at Philipsburg-Osceola, Richard “Dick” Condo’s enrollment at St. Francis raised the wrestling program’s profile state-wide and ushered in the golden age of St. Francis grappling.
By the time Condo’s sophomore year rolled around, he was one of the most respected amateur wrestlers on the circuit. However, a week from opening his sophomore season down in Newport News, Virginia, Dick dislocated his right shoulder, forcing him to miss his title defense of the same tournament he won as a freshman.
Condo sat out the next few weeks to nurse the injured shoulder. Word began to circulate around the country that Condo was injured.
He returned to the mat shortly after and devised a plan with coach Tom Vaux to mask the injury for the remainder of the season.
“Back in those days, we didn’t have athletic trainers so I was forced to tape our athletes,” said Vaux. “Dick’s right shoulder was injured so I decided to tape the left one.
“He looked at me with this confused look on his face and said ‘Coach, you know it’s my right shoulder don’t you?’
“Of course I did, but I didn’t want his opponents to target his bad shoulder,” Vaux continued.
Sure enough, Condo’s first opponent of the season targeted Condo’s left shoulder the entire match, allowing Condo to prevail victorious and relatively pain free.
The rest was history; for the rest of the season Vaux would tape Condo’s left shoulder.
Condo went undefeated over the entire season and the St. Francis wrestling program began to gain national notoriety.
That same season, the editor of Amateur Wrestling News, Jesse Hoke, called St. Francis the most improved wrestling program in the country.
A two-time team captain, Condo’s leadership and work ethic cultivated a positive culture within Vaux’s program.
He was always the guy to keep his teammates level-headed and grounded and did his best work when tension were at its highest.
Vaux uses one story in particular to illustrate Condo’s poise.
Many of Vaux’s student-athletes lived with him during their St. Francis careers and Condo was not an exception.
In the spring of 1968, Vaux took Condo on a fishing trip to Glendale Lake in Prince Gallitzin State Park.
On that day, there were unusually high winds which made the water extremely choppy. The water eventually came over the edge of the boat causing it to capsize and sink to the bottom of the lake.
Unaware at the time that Condo wasn’t a particularly strong swimmer, Vaux watched his star athlete plunge to the bottom of the lake, unscrew the 9.9 Johnson motor and drag it back to the beach’s surface.
“We laughed about it after the fact when he told me he barely knew how to swim,” said Vaux.
“If I would have known that at the time, I would have never let him go retrieve the motor but that was just the type of person Dick was.”
“He loved a challenge and was always calm when others were frantic. The amount of strength it took to remove that motor and swim up to the top is insane and he did it like it was nothing. I will always admire Dick for his character, leadership and fearlessness.”
As a buildup to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday, July 26, St. Francis athletics will unveil its profile series on each of the nine inductees.