Fresno State

Former Fresno State wrestling coach, No. 2 in program career wins, dies

Dick Francis, right, in his early years of coaching wrestling at Fresno High. He’s pictured with two other coaches who played a big part in the progress of Fresno State wrestler Eddie Davies, second from left. The other coaches are Hans Wiedenhoefer, left, Fresno City College; and Max Kimberley, Fresno State, second from right. Dr. Francis went on to coach at McLane High and Fresno State. He died Sunday, Nov. 19.
Dick Francis, right, in his early years of coaching wrestling at Fresno High. He’s pictured with two other coaches who played a big part in the progress of Fresno State wrestler Eddie Davies, second from left. The other coaches are Hans Wiedenhoefer, left, Fresno City College; and Max Kimberley, Fresno State, second from right. Dr. Francis went on to coach at McLane High and Fresno State. He died Sunday, Nov. 19. Fresno Bee archive

Former Fresno State wrestling coach Dick Francis, who ranks second in all-time victories for the newly revived program, died Sunday at his home in Philadelphia, according to former Bulldogs coach Dennis DeLiddo. Dr. Francis was 85.

Dr. Francis was the second head coach in program history, winning 108 matches over 16 seasons between 1965-81. He transitioned the wrestling team into NCAA Division I competition and coached the program’s first NCAA champion, Mike Gallego, whom he recruited into wrestling while at McLane High.

“He was a real straight-arrowed guy, a real disciplinarian,” said DeLiddo, who wrestled for Dr. Francis at Fresno State from 1968-69 before taking over as coach in 1981. “He knew a lot more about wrestling than most people back in those days.”

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Dr. Francis began his coaching career at Fresno High in 1956 before leading McLane from 1958-64. He took over the Bulldogs in their fourth season as an NCAA Division II program and posted four consecutive winning seasons before they jumped to Division I competition.

In all, he led the Bulldogs to two conference championships with 39 individual conference champions. Dr. Francis was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002.

Fresno State's restored wrestling program hosts its first home match of the new era against Illinois, drawing 6,000-plus wild fans Friday night, Nov. 17, 2017 to Save Mart Center in Fresno.

DeLiddo kept in touch with Dr. Francis in retirement, sending him some team gear when Fresno State brought back wrestling after an 11-year hiatus. His death comes two days after Fresno State hosted its first wrestling match since 2006.

“His wife sent me a card saying how happy that made him,” DeLiddo said. “It meant a lot to him.”

The columnist can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net and on Twitter @bydavidwhite.

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