Les Anderson made his impression on Iowa State’s storied wrestling program as a competitor, coach and administrator. Anderson competed for and assisted legendary ISU Hall of Fame coach Harold Nichols to help facilitate one of the greatest wrestling dynasties in NCAA history.
As a wrestler for ISU from 1958-60, Anderson, a native of Clarion, Iowa, was a three-time All-American, two-time national champion and two-time Big Eight champion at 130 and 137 pounds. Anderson was Nichols’ first NCAA champion in 1958, winning the 130-pound NCAA title. He was runner-up national champion at 130 pounds in 1959 and closed out his senior year (1960) by winning the 1960 137-pound NCAA title. ISU was runner-up national champions in all three of Anderson’s seasons as a wrestler.
After graduation, Anderson coached at the prep level for four years before returning to Iowa State in 1964 to form one of the most successful coaching tandems in NCAA wrestling history. As an assistant from 1964-74, Anderson and Nichols coached ISU to five NCAA team titles, three second-place finishes and tutored 20 individual national champions and 47 All-Americans.
Anderson, who owns both his BS and MS degrees from Iowa State, left ISU in 1974 to become the head wrestling coach at Washington. He mentored the Huskies until 1978 and then returned to his alma mater to assist the Cyclones again. His second stint as an ISU assistant was from 1979-92, helping Iowa State win another NCAA team title in 1987 and tutoring 14 individual national champions. ISU wrestlers earned All-America honors 67 times from 1979-92. He spent his final two years at ISU in 1993 and 1994 as a compliance director and athletic coordinator. Anderson was named Amateur Wrestling News Assistant Coach of the Year in 1985.
He was one of the first coaches to implement summer wrestling clinics, a concept that became the norm. For seven years he was on the Board of Directors for the National Wrestling Coaches Association and helped initiate the first annual coaches convention. He served as director of five NCAA and one AAU National tournaments and participated in the formation of the United States Wrestling Federation, serving three years on the Board of Directors of USA Wrestling.
He was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1984 and was a 2004 inductee to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.