A very surprised Chris Atkiss rose to his feet when he was announced as the “Outstanding Wrestler” of the 1960 New Jersey Prep State Championship Tournament.
That moment was the high point of a two-year Peddie wrestling career that saw Chris go undefeated at 120 pounds during both seasons of regular matches, win his first state championship as a junior and enjoy the high praise of being chosen senior-year co-captain together with Al Slader ’60 – only the second time in Peddie wrestling history that co-captains were elected.
Now he had won his second state title with a pin and two lopsided decisions.
“Outstanding Wrestler” honors are awarded by a vote of the competing state tournament coaches. Why hris was selected over the day’s other newly-minted state champs had everything to do with his distinctive power, speed and style. One hundred thirty-five-pound teammate John Bonello ’60 remembered Chris being “wiry, taut and strong.” One hundred sixteen-pounder Bob Klug ’60 recalled, “Chris was very fast, so his opponents were often lagging behind. By moving suddenly in one direction and then another, he kept his man off balance.” And 165-pound teammate Paul Albert ’60 remembered how “Chris would get a hold on his opponent, then unexpectedly flip both of them over on their backs so he could nail a sudden pin. It was a risky move, but Chris made it work by being a master of agility and surprise.”
The Peddie News Sports Editor Neal Marshall ’60 remembered how Peddie Sports Hall of Fame laureate Al Slader ’60 would light up whenever he talked about his close friend, Chris, praising him as a source of energy for the team and calling him “the most intense competitor he’d ever known.”
Having been a regional standout at Lansdowne High School in Pennsylvania, Chris came to Peddie and twice received the coveted Robert L. Tifft Wrestling Trophy. He graduated to the college mat when he went on to Allegheny College.