Olympian, referee, coach and leader Pat Lovell, 81, passed away Nov. 29 in California

By Cal Poly and local newspapers | Dec. 11, 2018, 4:53 p.m. (ET)
Wrestling photo from Lovell family, and portrait photo by Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel, both published by Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Santa Cruz Sentinel Article

San Jose Mercury News article

Former Cal Poly wrestling and football standout Pat Lovell passes at age 81 — Cal Poly Wrestling press release

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Pat Lovell, standout wrestler and football lineman at Cal Poly in the late 1950s who competed in the 1964 Olympic Games at Tokyo, died Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Lovell, commissioner of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League for nearly three decades until his retirement a year ago, was 81.

“He never grew up,” Duane Morgan, commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Coast Section and a former wrestling official with Lovell, told Jim Seimas of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “He saw happiness in everything. He loved the kids. What a great life that is.”

Lovell was a three-year varsity starter in football and wrestling with the Mustangs from 1956-60 and received numerous post season honors including three-time Pacific Coast Intercollegiate heavyweight wrestling champion.

Lovell graduated from Cal Poly in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He earned his master’s degree, also in physical education, at Cal Poly in 1971.

Lovell qualified for the 1964 Olympics in the light heavyweight division of Greco-Roman wrestling. He has been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the California Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Cabrillo College Hall of Fame and, in 1989, the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame.

Lovell was the 1961 National AAU heavyweight Greco-Roman champion. From 1961-64 he was the National AAU place winner in the same division and, from 1961-62 he was on the USA World Team.

Lovell was an eight-time AAU All-American winner. In 1995 he was the National Scholastic Federation Official of the Year and also was named USA Wrestling "Man of the Year.” He served as President of the USA Wrestling Officials Association and officiated high school football for 35 years and wrestling matches for 45 years.

From 1976 to 2000 he coached at Cabrillo College.

A former three-sport standout at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Lovell was a four-year wrestler at Cal Poly and earned the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate heavyweight title in 1958 and 1960. He played three years of football, competing at right tackle, and was linemates with left tackle and college roommate John Madden.

Lovell used his wrestling skills to his advantage on the football field.

“He had a lot of finesse,” Lynn Dyche, Lovell’s wrestling teammate at Cal Poly and a former high school wrestling coach and referee in the Bay Area, told the Sentinel. “He didn’t try to outmuscle opponents. He used his arms real well and was a very effective tackle. And if he wanted to be mean, he could be mean.”

Lovell remained close friends with Madden and got to travel in the famous John Madden Cruiser — Madden hates to fly — when Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2006.

Lovell had the full support of his football teammates when he competed in wrestle-offs on the top floor of Cal Poly’s Crandall Gymnasium. His football teammates lined the stairwell leading to the wrestling room and passed along highlights — like, “he got a takedown” — so those out of view could keep up to date, Dyche said. Lovell was a big deal.

He placed in 13 national freestyle and Greco-Roman championships.

At Lovell’s first teaching job, James Lick High School in San Jose, Lovell coached future NFLers Jim Plunkett and Daniel Lloyd on the wrestling mat. Lovell later coached at Monta Vista High in Cupertino and, for 24 years, at Cabrillo College, where in addition to wrestling, he coached football and softball.

His officiating career included 17 NCAA, 10 Pac-10 Championships and 17 U.S. National Championships and Lovell was USA Wrestling’s Official of the Year in 1974 and ’75.

“I don’t think there’s enough thank yous out there that we can give him for what he’s done,” Reggie Roberts, former wrestling coach at Aptos High School, told the Sentinel in May. “We’re talking about an entire lifetime of giving to others. He’s given up his life to help others learn about life through sports.”

Said Dyche: “I love the man. It’s tough to realize he’s gone. I’ll miss him.”

Lovell is survived by his wife of 50 years, Joy; son, Bobby; two daughters, Sarah and Allison; and several grandchildren. Allison is a swim coach at Soquel High School.