In the early 1950′s, Don Beitelman and Bob Leipler, two University at Buffalo graduates and teammates, entered the wild world of professional wrestling. Don Beitelman, who legally changed his name to Don Curtis, had a long Hall of Fame career. In 2012, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa. Bob Leipler, who at times wrestled under the name Duke Hoffman, also had a successful 15-year career.
Don Beitelman – 1949 Bulls Football
Don Beitelman a.k.a. Don Curtis
Don Beitelman attended the University at Buffalo from 1947 to 1951 and played football and wrestled. Beitelman reportedly went through four seasons of college wrestling competition without having his shoulders pinned.
After graduating, he was offered a contract to play football for the Baltimore Colts but he chose professional wrestling because at that time it paid more money. He made his Buffalo pro wrestling debut on June 29, 1951 in front of 10,000 fans at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. (see “10,402 See Togo Score Over GG in Aud Battle” Buffalo Courier-Express, 30 June 1951)
Beitelman went to New Zealand and Australia where he became a star. When he returned, he changed his name to Don Curtis. In his prime, he formed a formidable tag-team with Mark Lewin. The duo captured several regional and world championships. Don’s dynamic wrestling career lasted until the early 1970s after which he made a successful transition to coach, referee and member of the United States Olympic Committee for wrestling.
In 1980, Curtis was inducted into the University at Buffalo Athletics Hall of Fame for his contributions to U.B. and the sport of wrestling. He died on March 6, 2008.
Bob Leipler – 1949 Bulls Football
Bob Leipler a.k.a. Duke Hoffman
Bob Leipler attended the University at Buffalo graduating in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in education. He played mostly football. Leipler did not take up college wrestling until his senior year.
Leipler signed a contract with football’s Chicago Bears in 1951. (see “Leipler of UB Signs With Bears” Buffalo Courier-Express, 19 May 1951) A back injury prevented him from fulfilling the contract.
He instead followed Beitelman’s lead and pursued a career in professional wrestling. Leipler made his Buffalo pro debut on February 8, 1952 in front of 4,495 fans at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The Beitleman and Leipler actually wrestled against each other early on as seen by this August 14, 1952 Binghamton (N.Y.) Press newspaper advertisement.
Leipler had a successful 15-year career that took him to venues around the globe, facing off against the sport’s top contenders. Leipler, along with Larry Hennig, won the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Tag Team Champion in 1962.
After retirement from wrestling, Leipler worked at the Attica Correctional Facility as a physical education teacher from 1973 until his retirement in 1990. He died on December 24, 2002.
For more information on football at the University at Buffalo, visit the UB Sports History Collection website.
10,402 See Togo Score Over GG in Aud Battle
by Ray Ryan
Gorgeous George turned in by far his outstanding Buffalo bout in a vain cause last night in Memorial Auditorium as he bowed to the Great Togo before a remarkable Summer wrestling assemblage of 10,402. Apparently enjoying to the utmost the unique experience of being cheered to the echo, the Pacific Coast showman appeared headed for victory when the end came with startling suddenness at 22:06.
GG had made the Jap wince with flying hip locks, and had countered Togo’s feared chops with flurries of punches. His slams had Referee George Baltz counting over Togo on more than a few occasions. Stealing Togo’s thunder, Gorgeous once bowed mockingly. Then, when Togo stormed at him, GG left him apparently for dead with a right cross.
Togo’s chops keyed George to a high pitch. He clipped the Jap; threw him through the ropes with a hammerlock, and pushed Togo off the apron. Upon Togo’s return, GG rushed him to the other side of the ring, lifted him high and attempted to pitch him over the top rope. But the aim was poor. Togo struck the top rope and rebounded, with Gorgeous retaining the hold. GG fell over backward, and Togo pressed him for the fall.
Gorgeous figured he had the “difference” going in. He sported a robe of gold cloth, a replica of one worn by Emperor Hirohito on state occasions. Togo and Hata, his man Friday, gave it the double take. “Cost me seven and a half bills,” said GG.
Etchison Scores Again
Ronnie Etchison, exploding with a terrific tally for the second straight time, ironed out Zorra, the French Tarzan, in 17:04 of the semifinal. Again, the popular Midwesterner employed the colorful giant swing as the coup de grace. Zorra opened along scientific lines, but branched into hair pulling and punching while locking Etchison’s left arm. Ronnie flung him away, but Zorra came on again with the same tactics. Steaming, Etchison decked him with a straight right; leaped across the ring, grasped Zorra’s ankles and swung him about for the fall.
Don Beitelman, the former University of Buffalo mat and gridiron star, made a sensational Buffalo debut as he trimmed Howard Cantonwine in 1:25, the fastest time of the meeting. Don dashed from the corner with the opening bell, connecting with a solid tackle. Three more flying butts set up the veteran for a bear hug. Beitelman pressed Cantonwine’s shoulders to the rug while the fans tore up the seats.
Sandor Kovacs, using the ropes as bowstrings to twang his opponent’s noggin, decisioned Jim (Bull) Wright in a brisk 20 which saw them mix after the final gong. Kovacs tallied with a flip from a wrist lock, and was putting the piledriver on Bull when the bout reached its official termination.
Dona Lewin, with an Indian suntan, returned in the opening 20 and drew with Dick Trout. Trout tallied with a head scissors as they pinwheeled about the premises, but Lewin retaliated with a right that made it appear Dick was out like Trout.
— Buffalo Courier-Express, June 30, 1951
Joins Grid Pros
… UB Tackle
Leipler of UB
Signs With Bears
Chicago, May 18 – The Chicago Bears football club today announced the signing of Robert Leipler, former University of Buffalo tackle. Leipler is 24 and an Air Force veteran. He weighs 237 pounds. The Bears also announced signing of veteran Paul Stenn, former Villanova tackle, who has been with then the last three seasons.
— Buffalo Courier-Express, May 19, 1951