By Gary Abbott
One of the missions of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is to preserve the history of the sport of wrestling in the United States. This year, the Hall made a bit of history itself with the diversity of the Class of 2018, which attended the Friday night social and participated in the traditional unveiling of plaques ceremony.
Women’s wrestling is the fastest growing segment of the sport in the USA and worldwide, and women were prominently recognized among this year’s honorees.
Kristie Davis, a two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist, is becoming the second woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Nancy Schultz Vitangeli was there for the unveiling of the Order of Merit, given for service to the sport with input by past inductees. Her leadership with USA Wrestling, the Hall of Fame and many other levels of wrestling has made a lasting impact.
In the fifth year of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award, recognizing athletic, academic and community service among high school girl wrestlers, the honor is going to California star Alleida Martinez, a four-time state champion and two-time age-group World medalist.
Another of the Distinguished Members, the late Lee Allen, is being honored for a lifetime of success and leadership in the sport, including his role as a pioneer in the development of women’s wrestling in the United States. He is being represented for his posthumous honor by his wife Joan Fulp, and his daughters who were Women’s National Team members, Sara Fulp-Allen Bahoura and Katherine Fulp-Allen Shai.
“The Hall of Fame has a theme of Wrestling For All. It came from Sport For All, which came from the International Olympic Committee and United World Wrestling. It is a set of values, beliefs and initiatives that we are launching here at the Hall of Fame. It tells our story of diversity and inclusion and the character traits and values that we stand for. What better examples of the values and benefits of our sport than this Class of 2018 which we are about to honor,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith.
The diversity of this group did not end with the representation of women. Distinguished Member and Olympic champion Henry Cejudo, the Mexican-American son of immigrants, was joined by other Hispanic American honorees Alleida Martinez and Medal of Courage winner Michael Martinez. Distinguished Member and Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas also has a diverse cultural heritage.
Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner David Carr of Ohio is the son of Olympic medalist and Distinguished Member Nate Carr, and is the member of the storied Carr family of wrestling. David won five state high school titles and was a Cadet World medalist for Team USA. The Carr wrestling dynasty is part of the rich heritage of African-Americans in our sport.
The Outstanding American, wrestling and MMA legend Randy Couture, is a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having served in the U.S. Army, where his wrestling career was developed. His service later led him to major successes as an athlete, actor and businessman. Couture has created numerous non-profit initiatives supporting military veterans and assisting them in various aspects of their lives.