Wednesday the Yale men’s squash team defeated the Trinity College (Connecticut) Bantams 5-4, snapping Trinity’s 14-year-old winning streak. The Bantams had won 252 consecutive matches, picking up 13 consecutive College Squash Association National Championships along the way.
Trinity’s 252 straight victories is the longest winning streak in intercollegiate sports history.
If you aren’t familiar with squash (and I confess that I knew very little about the sport prior to researching this article), here are the final moments of the match that clinched the Yale-Trinity contest:
Only 32 colleges and universities have a men’s varsity squash team, and almost all are located in the northeastern United States or eastern Canada. Only five—Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Navy, and Trinity—have won a College Squash Association national championship.
College squash lacks the parity of many other college sports, but 252 wins is 252 wins. By comparison, the celebrated UConn women’s basketball winning streak ended at 90.
We may not see another intercollegiate varsity team win 252 consecutive games or matches in our lifetimes, but there have been several other winning streaks in the world of sports that were similarly impressive. Such as:
Kenyon College men’s swimming: 31 consecutive NCAA Division III National Championships
Last spring the Kenyon College Lords finished second in the NCAA Division III championship men’s swim meet, exactly one point behind the Denison University Big Red. (Kenyon and Denison, both in central Ohio, are about 30 miles apart and both compete in the North Coast Athletic Conference.) It was the first time since 1980 that Kenyon hadn’t finished first.
The Lords’ 31-year championship streak is the longest in any sport in NCAA history. The second longest streak belongs to the Kenyon College Ladies, who won 17 consecutive Division III swimming titles from 1984 to 2000.
Fun fact: The coach of the Denison team that ended the Lords’ 3-decade reign is a 1982 Kenyon grad who was a member of the 1980 team that started the streak.
Julio César Chávez: 87 consecutive boxing bouts
Mexico’s Julio César Chávez went pro in 1980 at the age of 17 and remained unbeaten for the first 13-and-a-half years of his professional career.
During his 87-bout winning streak Chávez went from weight division to weight division winning world titles. He won the WBC Super Featherweight title in 1984, the WBA Lightweight in 1987, the WBC Lightweight in 1988, the WBC Super Lightweight in 1989, and the IBF Light Welterweight in 1990.
In 1993, a few months before a draw with WBC Welterweight champ Pernell Whitaker ended Chávez’s run of victories, rival Greg Haugen questioned the validity of Chávez’s streak:
“The way I see it sixty of the guys he fought were just Tijuana cab drivers that my mother could have knocked out.” Haugen added, “But the other twenty-two are good fighters so I’m not taking him light but I’m not taking him as he’s unbeatable either with 82-0.”
On February 20, 1993 Chávez knocked out Haugen in the fifth round.
Last June Chávez’s son, Julio César Chávez, Jr., captured the WBC Middleweight world title by defeating Sebastian Zbik in a majority decision. The younger Chávez has a record of 43-0-1.
Penn State women’s volleyball: 109 consecutive matches
Like the Kenyon men’s swimming team, the Penn State women’s volleyball team saw a championship streak end in 2011.
The Nittany Lions had won four straight NCAA titles before losing this year in the Regional Semifinal (Sweet 16). Three of Penn State’s volleyball championships were part of a more impressive streak: 109 consecutive matches.
The streak lasted nearly three calendar years, starting on September 21, 2007 and ending with a loss to Stanford on September 11, 2010. Along the way the Nittany Lions completed two perfect seasons.
Cael Sanderson: 159 consecutive wrestling matches
Iowa State wrestler Cael Sanderson may have been the most dominant college athlete in history.
In four years at Iowa State (not counting a redshirt year when he was a freshman) Sanderson compiled a record of 159-0 and won 4 national championships wrestling at 184 pounds. Sanderson graduated in 2002.
Two years later he won Olympic gold in Athens wrestling at 84 kilograms. Today, he’s the head wrestling coach at Penn State.
Esther Vergeer: 434 consecutive tennis matches, and counting
You’ve probably never heard of Esther Vergeer. But she’s a a tennis player with 19 Grand Slam singles titles and 19 Grand Slam doubles titles and a 434-match win streak in singles that dates back to 2003.
You don’t know about Esther Vergeer because she plays in a wheelchair.
The 30-year-old native of the Netherlands has been in a wheelchair since she was 8, and she has become a world-class athlete.
Vergeer has won every French Open and U.S. Open Women’s Wheelchair Singles Championship ever held, along with every Wimbledon and U.S. Open Women’s Wheelchair Doubles Championship ever held. (Wimbledon doesn’t have a wheelchair singles tournament). She was also a member of the Dutch women’s wheelchair basketball team that won the 1997 European championship.
Vergeer will look to continue her 434-match streak next week in Melbourne. Here she is in action at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing:
Brandon High School (Florida) wrestling: 459 consecutive meets
In January 2008 the Brandon High School wrestling team lost by four points to South Dade High School, breaking a streak of 459 victories.
The duration of the streak is even more impressive than the number of wins: The Brandon eagles hadn’t lost a wrestling meet in 34 years.
It had been more than five years since the school just outside of Tampa won a match by fewer than 20 points. The 459-meet streak is a record for all high school sports in the United States.
Jahangir Khan: 555 consecutive international squash matches
We started with squash, so let’s finish with squash.
Pakistan’s Jahangir Khan is widely considered the greatest player ever to pick up a squash racket.
Khan won the World Amateur Individual Championship in 1979 at age 15. In April 1981 he began a 555-match winning streak that included five World Open and five British Open titles. (The World Open is the most prestigious tournament in squash, followed closely by the British Open.)
His streak ended in November 1986, but he would go on to win another World Open and five more British Opens.