Simonek, one of the first six wrestlers to qualify for national championships, succeeds

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Harold (Hal) Simonek, one of six wrestlers who was Cal Poly’s first NCAA Division I qualifier in 1958 and who coached multiple sports and served as athletic director over the course of 40-year career at Cerritos College, died Jan. 2, 2022, less than a month after his 90th birthday.

Simonek, who was a three-time CIF Southern Section champion in wrestling and also won a CIF Southern Section individual title in swimming and diving at Inglewood High School, began his college career at Cal Poly in the early 1950s and, after a season with the Mustangs, drafted into the United States Navy, where he competed on the San Diego Naval Wrestling Team.

After his military service, Simonek enrolled at El Camino College, where he won 90% of his games and served as team captain. After earning his Associate of Arts degree, he returned to Cal Poly, won a conference title in 1958, and led the Mustangs to a Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Tag Team Championship.

Simonek majored in physical education at Cal Poly and, for a semester, was roommates with NFL Hall of Fame football coach John Madden, who died in late December at age 85. While on the wrestling team, Simonek took third place in the IBO, first place at the Far Western Championships, and first at the California Regional Olympic Trials.

He joined five other Cal Poly wrestlers – Tom Hall, Jerry Canfield, Fred Ford, Delmec Scales and Pat Lovell – to become the first to qualify for the 1958 NCAA National Championships, where he went 1-2. Lovell qualified for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Simonek earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Cal Poly in 1960.

Simonek’s first job after graduation was a three-year stint at Hawthorne High School, where he led the wrestling team to a Bay League title. During her 40 years (1963-2003) at Cerritos College, Simonek served as the school’s wrestling coach, instructor, athletic director, dean of athletics, women’s cross country coach, women’s water polo coach, and coach. female swimmer.

With the Falcons, Simonek coached the 1971 team to a state title and produced 19 individual state champions and 55 All-Americans.

“Hal was one of the best wrestling coaches I ever coached,” said John Woods, himself a Cal Poly graduate who placed second at the 1969 NCAA Division I Nationals. , was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American, placing first. in 1967, and coach at Palomar College.

“He had a weird way of developing student-athletes,” Woods added. “They would struggle to place in early tournaments and finish the season as an All-American. It was his passion for the sport and genuine concern for his athletes that made the difference. I learned a lot of Hall.”

Simonek celebrated his 90th birthday on December 11 with family, friends and former wrestlers.

Comments are closed.