Three-time Olympic wrestler Bill Kerslake, 85, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Ohio

By USA Wrestling | Oct. 07, 2015, 1:01 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kerslake, 85, a three-time Olympian in freestyle wrestling and wrestling referee, passed away on Tuesday, September 29. Kerslake was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1982.

Kerslake was fifth in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, seventh in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and eighth in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy. He was one of the nation’s top wrestlers on the international level in the 1950’s, winning numerous national titles and major events.

A graduate of the Case Institute of Technology, he went on to a career as a rocket scientist, working for the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA, the forerunner of NASA).

“He was a 15-time U.S. Open Champion, a 3-time Olympian at heavyweight while simultaneously serving in rocket propulsion development as a rocket scientist for NASA (then NACA). Bill was a wrestling alum, Case Institute 1951, and legend has it that the founding father of Case Western Reserve Wrestling Claude Sharer pulled Bill out of phys ed class to start his career as a Hall of Fame wrestler. Our thoughts are with the Kerslake family,” said Danny Song, head wrestling coach at Case Western Reserve.

Funeral service is Thursday, October 8, 2015 at the Middleburg Heights United Church of Christ, 7165 Big Creek Pkwy in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, 44130 at 4 p.m.

Family will receive friends in THE TOMON & SONS FUNERAL HOME, 7327 PEARL RD., (S. OF BAGLEY), MIDDLEBURG HTS., WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2015 FROM 2-4 PM AND 6-8 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the MHUCC Church at the address listed above.

Obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

WILLIAM "BILL" ROY KERSLAKE, age 85, passed away Tuesday, September 29, 2015. Beloved husband of 61 years of the late Pat (nee Brown). Loving father of Roy (Sue), Carol, Ann Over (Randy), and Tom (Sue). Grandfather of Michael and Todd Kerslake; Kyle and Kelsey Johnson; Sarah, Ryan (Erin) and Molly Over; Deanna Ockunzzi (Scott), Brian & David Kerslake. Great grandfather of Sammy Ockunzzi and Amy Over. Brother of the late Helen (late Bill) Anderson and Dorothy (late Bob) Wightman, uncle to five nephews and son of the late Roy and late Hazel (nee Cook) Kerslake.

Bill was born and raised in Euclid, OH and went on to attend the Case Institute of Technology, where he was a standout in football, wrestling, and track. He was a member of the Case Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, where he developed life-long friendships. He graduated in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in industrial chemistry and later went on to earn a master's degree in chemical engineering.

After college, Bill started his career at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA, the forerunner of NASA), where he developed rocket propulsion, including the first ion thruster, over a career lasting 33 years. Bill also served in the Naval Reserves for several years allowing him to stay at NACA to work on rocket technologies.

Bill married Pat in 1952 and moved to the west side of Cleveland, eventually settling in Middleburg Heights where they lived for over 50 years. Bill had numerous life interests including fishing, traveling the world with Pat and friends, golfing, gardening, cooking, playing bridge (achieving rank of life master) and poker, dancing with his sweetie Pat at the annual Women's Club dance, entertaining, investing, recreational softball and volleyball, and watching the Cleveland Indians. Bill and Pat were long time, active members of the Middleburg Heights Community Church serving in numerous ways including Bill as the church treasurer for approximately 20 years. Bill also volunteered as a Boy Scout troop leader and a trustee at Southwest General Hospital.

Bill refereed high school wrestling in the Cleveland area for over a decade and was a world-class heavyweight wrestler. From 1952 to 1960, he participated in three Olympics. He was the Pan-American Games heavyweight wrestling gold medalist and maintained an undefeated streak of 15 years as the the US heavyweight wrestling national champion. Bill has been inducted into several academic and athletic halls of fame, both local area and national. Bill loved to share his knowledge and personal stories, particularly in his later years.

Bill was competitive and strived to be his best in his many pursuits, however, that didn't get in the way of having fun with family, friends, and colleagues, enjoying life, always with a big smile. He was also very proud of all his family and led the cheering section at sporting, music, and academic events of his children and grandchildren.

Funeral service is Thursday, October 8, 2015 at the Middleburg Heights United Church of Christ, 7165 Big Creek Pkwy at 4 pm.

Family will receive friends in THE TOMON & SONS FUNERAL HOME, 7327 PEARL RD., (S. OF BAGLEY), MIDDLEBURG HTS., WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2015 FROM 2-4 PM AND 6-8 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the MHUCC Church at the address listed above.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame biography
Bill Kerslake, Distinguished Member Class of 1982


He was one of the first giant heavyweights of modern American wrestling, but Bill Kerslake's achievements on the mat far surpassed even his physical stature.

He had no high school wrestling opportunity and little collegiate experience, although he starred in football and track at both levels. But in post-graduate wrestling, he became the dominant figure of the 1950s, winning 15 national championships in a row in Freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Over an eight-year span starting in 1953, he won 76 consecutive bouts in national tournament competition, and the national championship in both styles, until his streak was broken in the Greco-Roman finals of 1960.

One of his tournament bouts in 1956 ended in just four seconds, still a record for the fastest fall in national competition.

He won a gold medal in the Pan American Games of 1955 and three times represented the United States in the Olympic Games, placing fifth, eighth and seventh from 1952 through 1960. After his retirement from competition, he remained active in the sport as a referee for more than a decade.

While his collegiate days at Case Tech may not have been the ultimate preparation for competitive wrestling, he took advantage of exceptional academic opportunities in engineering. Throughout his wrestling career, and afterward, he was an aerospace research engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As co-inventor of the ion thruster, he helped speed our astronauts to the moon.

As a wrestler of exceptional achievement, and as an outstanding example of leadership in the world of technology, William Roy Kerslake is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Case Western Reserve Athletic Hall of Fame biography
William Kerslake, 1975 inductee


Bill Kerslake wrestled on three U.S. Olympic teams in 1952, 1956 and 1960. Over an eight-year span, he won fifteen National Championships in the Heavyweight division, eight in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman. As an undergraduate at CIT, Kerslake earned nine letters combined in wrestling, football and track. He set the CIT and Ohio Conference shot put record in track, was an All-Big Four tackle on the gridiron, and was one of the premier wrestlers in the country. He was voted as CIT’s outstanding athlete of 1951. Kerslake was a charter member of the Spartan Club Hall of Fame, and he is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Click here for article: Case’s Three-time Olympian and Rocket Scientist