The former East Stroudsburg University wrestler, assistant coach and longtime NCAA official was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame that day in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
But what was special about the day was not only joining the all-time wrestling greats, but being able to spend the moment with family by his side.
Gary’s wife, Deb, gave a speech Saturday that moved the room.
″(Olympic gold medalist) Henry Cejudo looked at his brother and said, ‘I feel sorry for you to have to follow her,’” Kessel recalled. “She had me in tears.”
Kessel was joined with his wife Deb, their two children Greg and Brielle, father-in-law Sam Coursen, who received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award from our New Jersey Chapter in 2001, friend and former ESU coach/wrestler Angelo Borzio, and former ESU teammate Greg Shoemaker for his induction. Coursen was Kessel’s presenter.
Kessel, who officiated NCAA matches for 40 years, including 16 Division I Championships and 12 finals, was also surrounded by officials he has worked with over the years. Kessel also refereed 39 New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
“For (my family) to be there and college officials to be there, it doesn’t get any better,” said Kessel, whose kids threw him a sendoff with friends before heading to Oklahoma. “It was so exciting and I took full advantage of it.”
Kessel was a two-time All-American at East Stroudsburg University, and was inducted into the ESU Hall in 1995.