Rich Lorenzo entered the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last weekend as a Distinguished Member, yet the very qualities that helped him win such recognition — selflessness, humility and team orientation — also made it hard for him to enjoy the congratulations.
The former Penn State athlete and coach surely earned his enshrinement in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As a Nittany Lion wrestler, he posted an undefeated dual meet record for two years and took fourth place at the 1968 NCAA championships. As Penn State’s head coach from 1978-1992, he guided his men to 11 finishes within the nation’s top 10 teams. As an executive, he led fundraising efforts for Penn State’s $4 million wrestling facility which was then named “Lorenzo Wrestling Complex,” despite his objections.
So there he was in Stillwater, not totally comfortable with the acclaim he received at a Friday night gathering, at a Saturday brunch and at a Saturday dinner.
“You could tell he was happy but also kind of uncomfortable,” says Lloyd Rhoades, a leader in central Pennsylvania wrestling circles. “He’s just not the kind of guy who’s full of himself. He’s always about building up others.”
“He lit up when he was talking to old friends and wrestlers,” says Lorenzo’s wife of 37 years, Cindy. “That’s when he was really getting into it. Because the spotlight was off him.”
You’re not a person who looks to get a lot of attention. How did you feel while being so much in the limelight?
Lorenzo: I don’t like it. I really don’t. Because there’s so many people who helped put me there. If only they could all be there and we shared in it together… And I wouldn’t want to leave out one of them. But I really am very uncomfortable when people start praising you or talking about how great you’ve been. That’s when I want to say, “Stop. It wasn’t just me. There were hundreds of people who helped me to be successful and helped Penn State to be successful.”