It had been more than 70 years since they wrestled for a state championship, but Ron Malcolm, 89 years young, had a message for Bruce Williams when he saw him again.

"We're not having a rematch."

Malcolm was head wrestling coach at Anoka for 34 years, guiding the Tornadoes to four team championships. But it was the 138-pound state championship match in 1951 between Malcolm, a senior at Blue Earth High School, and Williams, an undefeated senior at Rochester High, that was the focal point of this meeting at Pizza Luce in Roseville in August.

"He's gotten bigger since then, and I'm smaller," Malcolm said. "Bruce said, 'Let's wrestle.' I said, 'No way.'"

"I'd do it," said Williams, also a robust 89.

That the match took place 71 years ago yet was still foremost in the minds of a pair of octogenarians is testament to the staying power of a state tournament experience.

Their title match set up this way: Williams was athletic, good on his feet, able to shoot legs, get takedowns. Malcolm was a fireplug, stocky, strong, hard to move.

Williams held a 5-3 lead after two periods. A fateful, and not well understood, decision by tournament officials then came into play.

"For some reason, they changed things up that year," Malcolm said. "They made championship matches eight minutes instead of six. I still don't know why."

The third period started with Malcolm down and Williams on his back. Then Williams made the mistake he regrets to this day.

"I got careless. He got an armlock on me, rolled me and I was finished," Williams said. "He was a strong farm kid. He pinned me."

Malcolm still calls it luck.

"I was exhausted before the third period. My teammates were rubbing my arms, getting the blood flowing," he said. "But somehow I got him and side-rolled him. I got two points for reversal and two for a near fall. I thought I was going to have to hold like that, but then the referee slapped the mat and called it a pin. I wasn't trying for a pin. It just happened."

The pin came at 6:20 of the match, 20 seconds after matches usually ended. Malcolm was a state champion. "I was glad then that it went eight minutes," he said.

Having a state championship and undefeated season snatched away bothers Williams to this day.

"I've thought about it many, many times. I kick myself for not being smarter," he said. "Ron asked me why I didn't just let him up and give him the points. I could have made up the points. But I felt confident in my abilities. I felt at that point I had a very good chance to get a pin."

Instead he got pinned for the first time.

"I don't remember if I had tears or not, but I was disappointed as all hell walking off that mat," he said.

He has regrets, yes, but Williams treats the loss with good humor: "I tell people I was state champion for 2½ periods. But the problem is, matches are three periods."

Williams wrestled for the Army at Fort Carson, Colo., and went on to become a wrestling referee and establish youth programs in his hometown of Rochester, as well as in Crookston and Detroit Lakes.

Malcolm said he has always viewed the match as a catalyst for the rest of his life. It led to him becoming a captain for the Gophers wrestling team.

"That was very significant for me. If I hadn't won that match, I would have been rejected by the U of M," he said. "My family had no money. I would have probably gone into the military like my three older brothers. I wouldn't have gotten the job at Anoka."

Perhaps it saved his life. Malcolm said the best wrestler he faced in high school was Don Elsner of Owatonna, in a third-place match in 1950.

"He wiped the mat with me," he remembered, then his voice took on a serious tone. "A year later, I was winning a state championship. A year later, Don Elsner was killed in Korea. Winning that match was a turning point in my life."

Williams paused when he heard that, then said, "I didn't know he felt that strongly about it."

Each has moved on from wrestling, though Malcolm said he still follows the state meet. He is wintering in Sun City, Ariz., and recovering from intestinal surgery. He pitches horseshoes now.

Williams gravitated toward tennis and plays frequently, particularly now that he's spending a few weeks in suburban Sacramento.

Both hope last summer's reunion will become a more frequent event.

"I'd gone through Anoka many times on my way up to the cabin," Williams said. "I was overjoyed when I saw him."

Malcolm said: "I hope to see him again. He's a class act. But not on the mat. Not unless he loses a lot of weight."