Sam Wigley & the Bear


J. M. McCrery

Sometime in 1965 or í66 when Sam was still attending Louisiana Tech, one of the pizza parlors near the campus had a Saturday night entertainment special that included the opportunity to wrestle a black bear. Some entrepreneur had a de-clawed bear wearing a muzzle, and for a fee of around five or ten dollars, anyone fool-hardy enough could get in the ring with the bear and try to wrestle it to the ground and "pin" it. Anyone able to pull this off within a given time period was to receive a $50 prize.

At 6í 2" and 250 pounds, Sam was a physical match for the bear, but then a bear is a bear, and thatís a whole Ďnother animal. That said, Sam got in the ring to try on that bear. It soon became evident that Sam was getting the upper hand. The bearís shoulders being shaped the way they were and possibly some training that had taught the bear to roll to one side or the other to keep from having both shoulders flat on the ground kept Sam from actually attaining a "pin," but the bearís owner became so excited about what Sam was doing with his bear that he had a heart attack and an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. Thus ended the match, but Samís reputation was made. From then on he was known as the guy who out-wrestled a bear.

The next summer, Sam took a job working off-shore, and during an on-shore break went home with a co-worker for a weekend. When someone mentioned at the dinner table that Sam was a student at Tech, someone else brought up "the guy who out-wrestled the bear," not knowing he was at the table. Sam didnít say a word. He just ducked his head and concentrated on his meal. But his reputation had spread a little wider.