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NAT PENDLETON
wrestling

inducted February 18, 2006

Although Columbia has boasted several standout wrestlers, no one ever captured the spotlight like Nathaniel Greene Pendleton. Prior to his arrival at Columbia, early in the 20th century, wrestling on Morningside Heights was personified by Michael Pupin, whom some books credit with winning "the national championship" in the latter part of the 19th century. Pupin became a famed University dean, if for no other reason than his yearly challenge to entering freshmen to beat him in a match.

Pendleton was a powerful, handsome athlete who instantly became one of the most recognized figures on campus. He won the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) championship at 175 pounds in 1914, and followed it with another in 1915. Shortly after his 1916 graduation, he won the National AAU Wrestling Championship, representing the New York Athletic Club.

In 1920, Pendleton reached a level that no other Columbia wrestler has achieved. Competing in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, Pendleton won the silver medal.

About a year after his return, he journeyed to Hollywood in the hope of beginning an acting career. It would see him make more than 100 films and appear in several dramatic productions.

His first was a silent film called "The Hoosier Schoolmaster," in which he utilized his wrestling ability. He continued to appear in silent films as an athlete or a simple-minded "heavy."

When sound came to movies, Pendleton was in demand for his Brooklyn accent and comic portrayals. Often cast as the amiable oaf, he acted as a comic foil for such stars as the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello.

Among his credits are Horse Feathers, At the Circus, Buck Privates, Buck Privates Come Home, Lady for a Day, Manhattan Melodrama, The Great Ziegfeld (as Sandor the strongman), Northwest Passage, and Death Valley.

He had key roles as Detective Guild in The Thin Man and Another Thin Man, and as ambulance driver Joe Wayman in the Dr. Kildare/Dr. Gillespie films of the late 1930’s. Pendleton had the lead in Top Sergeant Mulligan and played a wrestler in Deception, which he wrote.

Pendleton’s heroics probably prompted Columbia to hire its first full-time wrestling coach, Gus Peterson, who would go on to coach more than 30 years and 268 dual meets.

Born on August 9, 1895, Pendleton was married to Margaret E. Carse. He died in 1967 in San Diego at the age of 72.

 


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