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Las Vegan Pat Christenson inducted into Wisconsin Hall of Fame

He says he weighs only 28 pounds more than he did in 1976 when he won the 167-pound NCAA wrestling championship for Wisconsin. But looking back, that’s probably not the most remarkable aspect of Pat Christenson’s crowning achievement on the mat.

He won the NCAA title despite being unseeded.

“Dan Gable got locked in an elevator, and he was the guy who was representing us (Big Ten wrestlers) for our seeds,” Christenson, the longtime Las Vegas Events president, recalled before being inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame during a banquet in Madison.

He was one of 12 honorees recognized at Wisconsin’s football game against Central Michigan on Saturday.

Christenson got even with Gable, the former Iowa State stalwart and then coach at Iowa by storming through the bracket and defeating the Hawkeyes’ Dan Wagemann in the championship match at the University of Arizona.

One of three Badgers to win national titles in that meet, Christenson made the Wisconsin team as a walk-on after his high school career in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a Milwaukee suburb. He said he owes not only the Hall of Fame honor to the 1976 national championship meet but also his long career in Las Vegas sports and entertainment.

“My education was important, but (overcoming) adversity, discipline and all of those fundamentals (learned through wrestling) were key to what I do today,” he said.

Having a visitor from Las Vegas in the large crowd at McKale Center also proved fortuitous.

“Probably the reason I am where I am today is that Dennis Finfrock was at that match,” Christenson said of the former coach of UNLV’s short-lived wrestling program who preceded him as director of Sam Boyd Stadium and the Thomas & Mack Center.

“He saw me win the title and pursued me the next three years to come out and be his assistant coach. I finally did it and, you know, the rest is history.”

Acting the part

Old ballplayers never die, at least not before attempting one last comeback. Or two.

It has been 69 years since Cameron Mitchell — you may know him better as Buck Canyon on the old TV series “The High Chaparral” — pitched in his only game for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the Class C Sunset League.

It happened Aug. 31, 1947. Two weeks before, Mitchell, who also starred in movies with Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day, had pitched four shutout innings against the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars in an exhibition.

He lasted only two-thirds of an inning for Las Vegas, allowing 11 runs on six hits and three walks while striking out one in an 18-10 defeat to the Ontario (California) Orioles.

Wrote baseball historian Bob Lemke: “The actor had been slated to make another start, in Reno, but the Wranglers’ general manager said, ‘We have decided against it.’ ”

Around the horn

— It was a rough week for former Las Vegas 51s managers employed in similar capacities in New York.

After Wally Backman of the independent Long Island Ducks was arrested following a domestic dispute with a woman claiming to be his girlfriend, Tony DeFrancesco watched his Syracuse Mets blow a 13-6 eighth-inning lead against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre en route to a 14-13 loss in a one-game playoff for the International League’s Northern Division title.

— Chace Numata, the Detroit Tigers’ catching prospect who died in an electric skateboard accident Aug. 30, had a brother who played baseball at College of Southern Nevada. Chevas Numata batted .333 and was 3-0 as a pitcher for the 2013 Coyotes.

— The official name of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that will set the field for next week’s South Point 400 playoff opener in Las Vegas is the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line.

Sort of rolls off the tongue, provided you have a tongue like a giraffe.


Brent Musburger was looking, live, at something Saturday morning and took to Twitter to describe it:

“I’m just flying into Oakland for the Monday nighter and some dude in a hot air balloon is headed in the opposite direction. Can’t imagine who that might be,” he wrote after the Raiders released Antonio Brown.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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