(Editor’s Note: On Sept. 26-27, Ottumwa High’s 1963 state championship football team will hold a 50-year reunion. This is first in a three-part series on that unbeaten season by former Courier sports editor Alan Hoskins)
It was a season that started without great expectations – at least on the state level.
Despite coming off a Little Six co-championship in 1961 and an outright Little Six title in 1962 and returning a dozen lettermen, Ottumwa was listed among the “also-rans” when the Associated Press released its first poll of the season.
Perhaps it was the schedule. The Bulldogs had to play its first two games on the road – at Newton against a Cardinal team that had finished unbeaten in 1962 and was seeking a third straight Central Iowa title; and at Cedar Rapids Regis, a perennial parochial power – before returning home against Little Six favorite and No. 9 ranked Muscatine.
The rugged road schedule also included Little Six tests at Keokuk and Burlington, where OHS had not won since 1938; a major showdown with another Little Six power, Bettendorf; a lengthy road trip to Dubuque Wahlert; and battles with traditional rivals Fairfield and Oskaloosa..
The Bulldogs were coached by Gary Grouwinkel, a standout guard on Iowa’s 1957 Rose Bowl championship team, and assistants George Magrane (line) and Bill Kramer (backs). A Wapello native, Grouwinkel had coached three years at West Branch before replacing Jack Fisk, who moved to Cedar Rapids Jefferson after coaching OHS to a 7-2 record and a co-Little Six title in 1961. Graduation had left Grouwinkel with almost no experience but nevertheless, the 1962 Bulldogs won OHS’ first outright Little Six title in years with a 6-3 record.
“Just because they didn’t play a lot doesn’t mean they’re not good players,” Grouwinkel said in his first interview with this writer. “The reason they didn’t play a lot was because there were some good players ahead of them.”