National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Wrestling loses pioneer wrestling coach Benning

Don Benning

By Stu Pospisil and Erin Duffy
Staff Writers
Omaha World-Herald
Don Benning was a groundbreaker in academics and athletics.

First black faculty member at the University of Omaha, now UNO.

First black head coach at a predominantly white university in the United States and the first to lead a team to a national championship. UNO’s 1970 NAIA wrestling team won the state’s first national title in a college sport.

First black doctorate recipient in the NU College of Education.

First black athletic director at an Omaha Public Schools high school, Central, and the first recipient of the state Athletic Director of the Year Award.

First black U.S. Olympic wrestling committee member.

Benning, 81, died Friday of multiple health issues stemming from kidney failure. Services were being planned.

“He was fearless,’’ son Damon Benning said. “He had laser-sharp focus. The worse the conditions, the better he was.

“He was so others-centered. So unselfish and would do anything anybody asked of him. It was so strange because he was such a man of principle. He had this way of having conviction but being so unselfish. That’s a rare combination. Usually one is at the expense of the other.”

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