National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Class of 2109 Shares Inspiring Stories

By Gary Abbott
USA Wrestling

The 43rd National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors Banquet was an inspiring evening, with four new Distinguished Members inducted, and a full Class of 2019 honorees recognized during ceremonies at the Oklahoma State University Student Union on Saturday.

The four new Distinguished Members included an impressive mix of wrestling talent and leadership, representing Olympic and World medals, NCAA titles, numerous All-American honors plus extensive success in coaching on many levels of the sport.

1996 Olympic silver medalist and 2001 World silver medalist Brandon Paulson, who was successful on the national and international level at a young age, took time to thank many who helped along the journey

“Thank you to USA Wrestling. I am a product of USA Wrestling. I came up through it. Especially Rich Bender and his family who extended my career, and Steve Fraser. ‘Enjoy the battle’ and “Expect to win’ are not just slogans. Joe Russell, who made me want to be a better man and first got me into Greco. Dan Chandler, the greatest Greco-Roman coach in U.S. history, was my lifelong coach. All my training partners and competitors, they made me strive to be great. That is what I always strive to be, and I wasn’t always, but they helped me get there as much as I could. To Jake Deitchler, who showed me the potential of an athlete, when an athlete is all-in. To Jared Lawrence, my partner at PINnacle, he is the yin to my yang. I love my family and my wrestlers and I would do anything for them,” he said.

In addition to his Olympic and World medal, Paulson also won a 1993 Espoir World silver medal, and was an NCAA All-American for Minnesota. He won USA Wrestling national titles on the Cadet, Junior, Espoir, University and Senior levels. Paulson has made a huge impact as a coach, on the youth level with PINnacle Wrestling School, and at an elite Greco-Roman level with the Minnesota Storm and as a volunteer international coach with USA Wrestling.

A 1996 Olympic silver medalist and two-time Olympian Townsend Saunders, who competed during one of the most successful eras for USA Wrestling, joked about how long it took to be elected to the Hall.

“I get the distinct feeling that I am here a little bit late. A lot of my team members, especially from the United States team, are already inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, including my wife Tricia. I think about that when my spouse asked, ‘What took you so long?” In reality, a lot of my peers have not and will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, they should be, because of the impact they had on me. I know I could not achieve my goals without them. I will say this. My hope is that my accomplishments and this induction and my interaction with their families will hopefully inspire the next generation of wrestlers and athletes to become the best that they possibly can,” said Saunders.

In addition to winning his Olympic silver medal in Atlanta in 1996, Saunders placed sixth in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Saunders was a member of the 1993 and 1995 U.S. Freestyle World Teams, which won World Team Titles in Toronto and Atlanta respectively. An NCAA runner-up for Arizona State, and NCAA Div. II national champion at Cal-State Bakersfield, Saunders won titles at the Pan American Games and Goodwill Games. He is part of the first husband-wife pair of Hall of Fame Distinguished Members, as his wife, four-time World champion Tricia Saunders, was the first woman inducted into the Hall back in 2006.

Two-time NCAA champion, long-time Boston University coach and innovative inventor and businessman Carl Adams, gave special recognition to his parents and family, his coaches, his teammates and the wrestlers that he coached. He also expanded his thanks to so many others who helped influence his life.

“After 56 years of involvement in the sport of wrestling, there are so many people I need to thank. There is no way I am going to be able to do it here today. The best way for me to say it is that anyone who has been involved in my wrestling journey, thank you. All of you own a piece of this honor, because without you, I would not be standing here today,” said Adams

Adams won two NCAA titles and three All-American honors for Iowa State, becoming the first freshman All-American in history when freshmen were allowed to compete starting in 1969. He was a World Team member, Pan American Games medalist and two-time freestyle national champion. Adams was an assistant coach at Iowa State, then head coach at the University of Rhode Island, then for 30 years at Boston University. He invented numerous wrestling training devices, and was an innovator with books, videos, wrestling camps and other projects.

Long-time and respected Penn State head coach Rich Lorenzo, talked a bit about his philosophy as a coach and his commitment to the student-athletes who were part of his program.

“It’s about doing your job the right way. In your sport, when young people give you their acceptance to come to your school, I feel it is my obligation to bring the very best out of them, not only on the wrestling mat, but as people, so they can become very successful in life. It’s so they succeed; that is what you want. I respect so many people in this sport. I am not talking just about the wrestlers. I am talking about the fans and the parents too,” said Lorenzo.

Lorenzo was an All-American at Penn State in 1968, and became an assistant coach there shortly after graduation. He became Nittany Lion head coach in 1978 and led the team through 1992, helped 53 Penn State wrestlers earn All-America honors, including two-time NCAA champion Jeff Prescott and national champions Carl DeStefanis, Scott Lynch and Jim Martin. He was twice National Coach of the Year. He served in leadership positions with the NWCA for many years, and was a driving force with the Nittany Lion WC, helping raise money for wrestling facilities on campus which bear his name.

War hero and Medal of Honor recipient Jim “Doc” McCloughan, the Hall of Fame’s 2019 Medal of Courage winner, gave a rousing speech that inspired the crowd and led to a standing ovation.

“Football and wrestling helped me to save lives. I am standing in front of you because of wrestling. I am not just talking about the physical part of wrestling. The mental discipline that I learned from this sport allowed me to focus on the chaotic situations as a combat medic. And because of that, as you have heard, there are 11 family trees that go on across this nation. Life is not measured by the breaths we take. It is measured by the moments that take our breath away. This sport of wrestling, and being a dad, has taken my breath away hundreds of thousands of times,” said McCloughan.

McCloughan was awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration for his acts of bravery and valor on the battlefield while serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. As an combat medic, McCloughan risked his life repeatedly and suffered injuries to save numerous American soldiers, with specific acts of heroism during the Nui Yon Hill in 1969. McCloughan wrestled and played football at Olivet College before being drafted into the military. A teacher and wrestling coach for 40 years in Michigan, he also served 25 years as a wrestling referee in the state.

Outstanding American Steve Cannon, a U.S. Army officer who became a leading executive in the automotive industry and the sports industry, talked about his passion for wrestling and how it affected him and led to success in all aspects of his life.

“I am really proud to be in the company of all the other inductees. The fact that my story is connected with the giants of our sport, it just doesn’t get any better than that. I am really humbled and thankful,” he said. “I will dedicate this honor to my brother Mark. We spent three years together at West Point. We wrestled together. We were each other’s best friends. We were each other’s mutual support. I lost Mark five years ago to depression and miss him every single day. The fact that I got his picture in my cabinet at the Wrestling Hall of Fame and I get the privilege to bring him with me is an honor I can not even begin to tell you how important that is,” said Cannon.

Cannon wrestled at Ramapo High School (NJ) and at the U.S. Military Academy, and served the nation in Europe during the end of the Cold War. He entered the business world as an assistant to the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz North American, and served in a number of executive roles including chief marketing officer. He became on the second American to serve as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. He is now CEO of AMB Group, LLC, where he oversees all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta United of Major League Soccer; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and retailer PGA TOUR Superstore.

Order of Merit winner David Curby, who has been a successful athlete and coach in wrestling, and an international leader in sports science for wrestling, talked about how experiencing Honors Weekend has affected him.

“I want to thank Lee Roy Smith, the Board of Directors and distinguished members of the Hall of Fame for providing me the joy of a lifetime. I want to acknowledge my coaches Rick Bay and Bill Johansson and all my fellow University of Michigan wrestlers. Thanks to the Class of 2019. Hearing all of their stories this morning has provided a blessing, inspiration and motivation. Let’s all keep moving to keep wrestling moving forward,” said Curby.

Curby founded the International Network of Wrestling Researchers, which has more than 500 members in 75 countries, and also serves as the editor of the International Journal of Wrestling Science, the organization’s official publication. He founded the Jacob Curby Foundation, in memory of his late son who was a National Team Greco-Roman wrestler, and created the Jacob Curby Cup, a premier Greco-Roman competition. Curby was a Junior National champion and Junior World Team member, and went on to serve as captain for Michigan, where he was a Big Ten champion. A teacher and department chair in high school, Curby has impacted many as a wrestling coach, administrator and leader.

Meritorious Official David Errett, a decorated international referee who worked 25 World Championship events over a long career in officiating, identified a number of peers in officiating who had an impact on his life.

“Thanks to some special individuals, Rick Tucci, Bill Stecklein, Bobby Walton, Jan Hesser, Rollie Hoover, Tony Melosci, Leroy Evans, Jack Bowman, Tom Clark and many others who have helped and supported me through this journey,” said Errett.

Errett was licensed folkstyle official in Indiana for 20 years, also gaining his national license from the USA Wrestling Officials Association in 1988 and his international license from United World Wrestling, in 1990. He officiated 25 World Championships, 18 World Team Trials, six Olympic Team Trials and 13 Armed Forces Championships. The USA Wrestling Official of the Year in 1996, he was also honored by UWW with Golden Whistle Award in 2003 at the Greco-Roman World Championships in Paris, France. At Martinsville (Indiana) High School for 40 years, Errett was an assistant wrestling coach for 11 years and head wrestling coach for 20 years.

Also honored were two impressive high school wrestlers who were recognized for their wrestling achievements, academic excellence and community service.

Cohlton Schultz of Parker, Colorado, is the 2019 national winner of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award. A four-time Colorado High School state champion for Ponderosa High School, Schultz was 2017 Cadet World champion and 2018 Junior World bronze medalist, both in Greco-Roman, and has made six age-group World Teams. He has qualified for Final X in Greco-Roman, with a chance to make the 2019 Senior World Team. Schultz has a GPA of 3.25 and will wrestle for Arizona State University

Emily Shilson of North Oaks, Minnesota, is the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award winner. Shilson had 139 wins and qualified for three state meets in Minnesota, competing against boys. Shilson made history in 2018 as the first U.S. wrestler to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games. She was a 2018 Cadet World champion and 2017 Cadet World silver medalist, and has won numerous national titles in both freestyle and folkstyle. Shilson will enroll and wrestle at Augsburg University.