Being a member of the Hall of Fame has become a familiar honor for Bob Roop.
When the SIU veteran is inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame next month, it will be the fifth time he has been inducted into someone’s Hall of Fame.
That doesn’t mean that this particular honor didn’t surprise him, though.
“I didn’t expect it,” he said Friday morning from his home in Lansing, Michigan. “It’s not like it’s new to me, but I really appreciate each one of them and don’t take it for granted. I am honored.”
Roop won 66 matches and lost 18 in the SIU from 1965 to 1969, punctuating his college time with a National Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman heavyweight title as a senior Saluki. And that wasn’t even the high point of his four years at Carbondale.
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You see, little things like representing the United States at the 1968 Mexico Olympics tend to go to the top of the list.
“I don’t want to say it was otherworldly, because I’ve been around a bit, but it was a great experience,” Roop said. “You are among the best athletes in the world. I took seventh place and won a match at the Olympics. How many other people can say they’ve done this? »
Roop won his first round match in Greco-Roman wrestling before losing in the second round to Soviet Aleksandr Medved, who went on to win a gold medal at the end of the competition. Roop was at a serious disadvantage in this style of wrestling, which differs greatly from freestyle wrestling as it prohibits below-the-waist holds.
He was one of the lightest wrestlers in this discipline.
“I’ve wrestled guys who were 100 pounds heavier than me,” Roop said. “They were super heavyweights. And that’s what they did for a living. Almost every country other than the United States had professional teams; that’s what they did.
The really funny story behind it all is how Roop ended up at the SIU in the first place. He started his college education at Michigan State, but left school after a year and a half to spend three years in the military and special forces.
In 1964, Roop landed at the Olympic Trials, where he wrestled another SIU great, Larry Kristoff. The man with a 313-13 overall record in his career, counting high school, college and international wrestling, and two national college division titles as Saluki might have expected to mop the rug with the relatively unknown Roop.
Except it didn’t happen that way. Sure, Kristoff took a 1-0 win, but Roop was there with him the whole time. Afterwards, SIU coach Jim Wilkerson asked Roop a question.
“He came up to me and said, ‘I’ve never heard of you.’ I told him, ‘I haven’t been to school yet,’” laughed Roop. “So he asked me if I wanted a scholarship. We are talking about a multi-thousand dollar transaction here and it took no more than 15 seconds.
After graduating from the SIU in 1969, Roop spent 19 years as a professional wrestler, mostly playing villain. He also got a cameo role in a 1978 Sylvester Stallone movie called Paradise Alley, where Stallone directed and starred as a character who encourages his little brother to become a wrestler and earn big money.
Roop, Terry Funk and Ted DiBiase were among the professional wrestlers to appear at some point in the film, although Roop swears one could almost blink and miss his part.
A father of two, Roop returned to college after his youngest son was diagnosed with a learning disability. Roop wanted to become a special education teacher and became certified to teach special education and elementary K-7.
After serving as a substitute for five years, Roop retired to care for his bedridden wife. After his passing, Roop found part-time work caring for children with special needs while they traveled to school and other duties.
Roop, who turned 80 in July, looks forward to his induction in October.
“Hopefully some of my wrestling teammates will show up,” he said. “Being a wrestler breeds a friendship where guys follow each other. It doesn’t matter how tall you are if you’re a badass. It’s all inclusive.”