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Tales from the Grubby End: Remembering Newbergs Ironman

Vernon Wedin a member of the storied 1933 OSC team that matched the Trojans


By George Edmonston Jr., Newberg Graphic correspondent

In the 28 years I have lived in Oregon, I have witnessed, heard or read about many extraordinary sporting events.

Taking everything into account, nothing for the historian in me surpasses a football game played on Oct. 21, 1933, featuring the Oregon State College Beavers and the University of Southern California Trojans. The place was Portland’s Multnomah Stadium, now called Jeld-Wen Field.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Standing tall - Newberg Union High School graduate Vern Wedin was among the Oregon State College players that in 1933 utilized the now-banned Pyramid Play to block point-after and field goal attempts.

As we say goodbye to 2013, which just so happens to be the 80th anniversary of this classic game, let’s celebrate by telling the story of Newberg’s special connection to this magical moment.

Trojan Head Coach Howard Jones (1925-1940, 121-36-13) had brought to Oregon more than 80 players, plus a portfolio of gridiron success that was the envy of every coach in the country.

He was riding a 25-game winning streak. Since 1931 he had won back-to-back Pacific Coast Conference championships, Rose Bowls and national championships. He was the Nick Saban of his generation.

His line-up featured three All-Americas and numerous all-conference players. Among them was the best defensive lineman in the country, Aaron Rosenberg, one day to be a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a Hollywood movie producer whose credits include “The Glenn Miller Story” (1954), “The Benny Goodman Story” (1956) and “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962).

Against five opponents that season, the Men of Troy had scored 141 points and allowed but a single touchdown.

On the opposite side of the ball, Oregon State College’s Lon Stiner had 37 players, mostly (at that time) unknowns, but with a healthy understanding of what they were up against.

Out of that group, Stiner had 11 athletes he especially liked. On this day, he would do something that would make them immortal. He would use no substitutes. The starters would play both offense and defense for 60 minutes.

This was David verses Goliath, Popeye without his spinach fighting Bluto. And as these things often go, the little guy won — more or less. The final whistle blew a 0-0 tie.

Now before you ask yourself what’s the big deal, remember that this is the only game in NCAA history in which a team using no substitutes halts the winning streak of a defending national champion.

Known to Beaver Nation as the “Ironmen” or “Iron Immortals,” the 11 who played that day also share another claim to fame. That same season, the group invented “The Pyramid Play,” in which a teammate was lifted in the air to block extra point and field goal attempts.

A photo of the “Pyramid,” taken at the 1933 Civil War game, went viral and forced the NCAA to ban use of the play. The rule is still in effect.

One of the Ironmen was Vernon Wedin (pronounced “Wadeen”), a lineman, who also happened to be the shortest man among the starters.

In July 1936, Wedin was hired as athletic director at Newberg Union High, a position that included both teaching and coaching responsibilities. Born in Minnesota in 1910, he had moved with his parents to Gresham when he was an infant.

Not only did he instruct students in general science, he was head coach of four varsity sports: football, basketball, baseball and track. Wedin was also the faculty advisor for the letterman’s club, known at that time as the Order of the “N.”

Taking over a program that hadn’t won a football game since 1932, The Tigers finished the 1936 season at 3-1-3. The town was thrilled.

Interviewed by telephone from his winter home in Quartzsite, Ariz., 90-year old and former Newberg Tiger Loren “Tex” Mardock remembered some of the qualities about his coach that made for instant success.

“He was tough and worked the devil out of us,” he said. “He knew what had to be done and we did it.”

At the same time, Wedin was a “good man,” Mardock added, and said his coach was not the kind of person who needed intimidation to keep players motivated.

“He did not ride us. When we did something wrong he told us, but he didn’t get on our backs,” he said.

Highlighting Wedin’s second year was the formation of the Girls’ Athletic Association or G.A.A, the first-ever such organization for the school’s women athletes. In two years, participation in women’s athletics at the school nearly doubled.

The start of the 1939 football season, Wedin’s fourth and final year in Newberg, was extraordinary by anyone’s standards. Through five games the Tigers were undefeated and had not given up a single point.

Then came what the students referred to as “The Crash,” losses to Hillsboro and Beaverton by considerable margins. A win over McMinnville was followed by two more losses to end the season at 6-4.

Marrying NUH physical education teacher and tennis coach Clara Ruff, Wedin and his wife finished the 1939-1940 school year and moved to Chehalis, Wash. Here they both taught at the high school, parented three children and stayed the rest of their lives.

He eventually became a vice-principal, was promoted to assistant superintendent of schools and passed away in 1971 while still in the position.

Newberg resident George Edmonston Jr. is the retired editor of OSU’s alumni magazine, the Oregon Stater, and is a frequent contributor of history features to this newspaper. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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