The National Wrestling Hall of Fame announced on Thursday that the Class of 2018 inductees are Distinguished Members Stephen Abas, Lee Allen, Henry Cejudo and Kristie Davis, Meritorious Official Gary Kessel, Order of Merit recipient Nancy Schultz Vitangeli, and Medal of Courage recipient James McCloughan. Allen will be inducted posthumously as he passed away in 2012 at the age of 77.
The Hall of Fame will announce its Outstanding American honoree at a later date.
Davis becomes only the second woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member, joining four-time World Champion and women’s wrestling pioneer Tricia Saunders, who was inducted in 2006. Saunders is the namesake of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding high school senior girls for their excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship, and community service.
“The Class of 2018 is an amazing group of people who have made a tremendous and extremely positive impact on our sport,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “We are excited to be inducting our second female Distinguished Member, Kristie Davis, and to recognize Lee Allen, who played a significant role in the development and growth of women’s wrestling. We are so excited to honor another group that has not only contributed to our sport, but who embodies what wrestling can do to help you excel in life.”
The Hall of Fame Board of Governors approved the selections at its meeting in Kansas City on Oct. 18. The induction ceremony will be held at the 42nd Annual Honors Weekend on June 1-2, 2018 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For more information on Honors Weekend, please telephone (405) 377-5243.
Abas, Cejudo and Davis were chosen as Distinguished Members for the Modern Era while Allen was selected by the Veterans Committee. The Hall of Fame has inducted 188 Distinguished Members since it began in 1976.
Distinguished Members can be a wrestler who has achieved extraordinary success in national and/or international competition; a coach who has demonstrated great leadership in the profession and who has compiled an outstanding record; or a contributor whose long-term activities have substantially enhanced the development and advancement of the sport.
Stephen Abas was a three-time NCAA Division I national champion and a four-time All-American for Fresno State University, winning titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002 after finishing fourth as a freshman in 1998. He won a silver medal at the Olympics in 2004 and competed in the World Championships in 2001 and 2003. He was also qualified for the World Championships in 2002, but the United States did not compete. Abas was named to the NCAA’s 75th Anniversary Wrestling Team in 2005 in the lightweight division, along with current Distinguished Members Tom Brands (2001), Dan Gable (1980), John Smith (1997) and Yojiro Uetake Obata (1980). He had a career college record of 144-4-0 and did not lose a match at 125 pounds. Abas concluded his college career with 95 consecutive wins, including a 35-0 record as a senior and a 34-0 record as a junior, while setting the school record for career wins with 144 wins and career winning percentage with 97.3 percent. He was named the Fresno State Male Athlete of the Year in 1999 and 2001, and is currently the freestyle coach at the Valley Region Training Center in Fresno, California.
Lee Allen was one of only four wrestlers to represent the United States at the Olympics in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, competing in freestyle in 1956 and finishing eighth in Greco-Roman in 1960. He was a member of the first United States team to compete in the World Championships, placing sixth in freestyle in 1961. Allen was a four-time undefeated Oregon state champion for Sandy High School in Sandy, Oregon, and competed in college at Portland State from 1952-54. Allen was the head coach of the 1980 Olympic Greco-Roman team, which did not compete in the Olympics in Moscow, Soviet Union, because of the U.S. government boycott of the Games. He was an assistant coach for the United States Greco-Roman team at the Olympics in 1972 and 1976. He was head coach of four United States Greco-Roman teams at the World Championships in 1973, 1977, 1978 and 1979. The 1979 team finished fourth with three individual medalists, which was one of the best Greco-Roman performances of the time period. Allen and his wife, Joan Fulp, were instrumental in the development and growth of women’s wrestling in California and the United States. He led the men’s wrestling program at Skyline College in California for 32 years while incorporating a women’s program. His San Francisco Peninsula Grapplers women’s team won the senior national championships in 1997 and 1999. Allen was head coach of the women’s wrestling team at Menlo College in California from 2001 to 2010 where he coached both of his daughters, Sara Fulp-Allen Bahoura and Katherine Fulp-Allen Shai. Sara was the first three-time women’s college national champion, and an injury prevented her from competing as a senior to try and become the first four-time champion. Katherine was a World University champion and five-time national team member. Lee received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011 and from the California Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. He is a member of the AAU Hall of Fame, the San Mateo County Sport Hall of Fame, Skyline College Hall of Fame, California Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Portland State University Hall of Fame.
Henry Cejudo was 21 years old when he won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2008, becoming the youngest Olympic wrestling champion in United States history. Kyle Snyder broke Cejudo’s record in 2016 when he captured a gold medal at the Olympics as a 20 year old. Cejudo won the Pan American Championships three times, and competed in the World Championships in 2007. Cejudo was a two-time U.S. Open champion, who became the first high school wrestler to win the U.S. Nationals in freestyle since USA Wrestling became the sport’s national governing body in 1983. He won a pair of state high school championships in Arizona before moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to become a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He won Colorado state high school championships as a junior and senior, and was named ASICS National High School Wrestler of the Year in 2006. Cejudo is currently competing in mixed martial arts and is the UFC’s No. 2 ranked flyweight.
Kristie Davis has won nine World medals which ties her with Bruce Baumgartner for the most World medals in United States history. The Albany, New York native holds the American records in women’s freestyle for most world teams, most medals, and most finals appearances. Davis competed in 10 World Championships and was a seven-time finalist, winning gold medals in 2000 and 2003 and silver medals in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2007. She captured bronze medals in 2002 and 2006. Davis helped the United States capture the World Championship team title in 1999, which is the first and only American women’s team to accomplish the feat. She was named Women’s Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling five times (1998, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2007), which is more than any other wrestler since the award began in 1993. Davis was a nine-time U.S. Open champion who competed in four Olympic Trials, placing second once and third twice. She was a four-time University Nationals champion, and won two Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association national championships for Oklahoma City University. Davis also competed as Kristie Stenglein, which is her maiden name, and as Kristie Marano, which was her first married name. She was named co-head women’s wrestling coach at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia, on Monday, where she will be working alongside her husband, Link Davis.
The Meritorious Official award recognizes outstanding service as a referee, judge, or pairing official.
In 40 years of officiating, Gary Kessel has refereed 16 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, including 12 finals, and eight NCAA Division III Championships, including eight finals. He has officiated 21 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships and 18 Virginia Duals while also refereeing nine National Duals and four National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star matches. Kessel has also refereed 39 New Jersey state high school wrestling championships, including 11 finals, and has officiated 15 national high school tournaments. He has been president of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Officials Association, the oldest and largest wrestling organization in the country, since 2010, and has worked as a rules interpreter for the state of New Jersey and the Eastern Wrestling League. He serves as the secretary/treasurer for the National Wrestling Officials Association and also chairs the organization’s education committee while also serving on the executive board of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Kessel was honored as the New Jersey Official of the Year in 2007 and received the Richard Mirshak award for dedication, service and contributions to wrestling in 2015. He received the Vincent Russo Golden Whistle award in 2016 and was presented the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2017. Kessel was inducted into the East Stroudsburg University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995, and is also a member of the Hopatcong, New Jersey, High School Hall of Fame.
The Medal of Courage recipient is a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome what appear to be insurmountable challenges, providing inspiration to others.
In 1969 at the battle of Nui Yon Hill in Vietnam, combat medic and former wrestler James McCloughan risked his life repeatedly to save 10 fellow American soldiers. On July 31, 2017, McCloughan was awarded the Medal of Honor, the most prestigious personal military decoration, for his acts of bravery and valor on the battlefield while serving in the U.S. Army. With his company engaged in a battle, McCloughan ran 100 meters through an open field to rescue an injured soldier, carrying him back to the company and saving him from being captured or killed. McCloughan saw two more soldiers and ran to their aid. While checking them for wounds, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded and peppered him with shrapnel. Bleeding extensively, he returned to the kill zone four more times to find more wounded soldiers. The next day, another platoon was ambushed and their medic was killed, leaving McCloughan as the only medic in the company. McCloughan was wounded a second time by small arms fire and shrapnel while providing aid to two soldiers in an open rice paddy. He then volunteered to hold a blinking light in an open area as a marker for a nighttime supply drop, holding his prone position as bullets and RPGs flew over and around him. The next morning, he destroyed the RPG position with a grenade, while continuing to fight and care for wounded Americans. He finally collapsed from exhaustion and dehydration. McCloughan was a four-sport athlete at Bangor High School in Bangor, Michigan, and he wrestled and played football and baseball at Olivet College. He taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School for 40 years, and also coached wrestling, football and baseball. He was also a wrestling official for the Michigan High School Athletic Association for 25 years. McCloughan is a member of the Olivet College Athletic Hall of Fame, Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The Order of Merit is presented to an individual that has made a significant contribution to the sport of wrestling, but who is not an athlete or a coach.
Nancy Schultz Vitangeli has been involved in wrestling since meeting Dave Schultz when the two were attending the University of Oklahoma. They were married in 1982 and were together until 1996 when the Olympic and World champion was killed by John du Pont. Following his death, Schultz Vitangeli founded the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club which sponsored 20 displaced athletes from Team Foxcatcher, providing them with training and coaching resources through the 1996 Olympics. The Dave Schultz Wrestling Club continued until 2005 and trained athletes in men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman, including Olympic gold medalists and Distinguished Members Kurt Angle and Brandon Slay, Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda, and two-time NCAA Champion, World Champion and Distinguished Member Stephen Neal. Schultz Vitangeli helped begin the Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, which annually hosts World and Olympic class athletes. She also helped create the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award in 1996, an award that is presented annually by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame to top high school wrestlers based on wrestling, scholastic achievement and citizenship. Schultz Vitangeli worked with ASICS to promote the Dave Schultz wrestling shoes, and helped facilitate the Dave Schultz video anthology series, featuring techniques used in competition by Dave from 1986 to 1995. She is a partner at RUDIS, a sports apparel company dedicated to the sport of wrestling and a preferred apparel provider for the Hall of Fame. Schultz Vitangeli is a Governor’s Associate for the Hall of Fame and an honorary board member for USA Wrestling, and served as honorary co-chairperson for “Wrestling for the Next Millennium,” a capital campaign designed to ensure that the oldest sport thrives in the 21st century and beyond. She served as executive producer for “Team Foxcatcher,” an Emmy Award nominated documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and became one of Netflix’s most popular selections. Schultz Vitangeli was a consultant on the Oscar nominated major motion picture “Foxcatcher” starring Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell. She was named Woman of the Year by USA Wrestling in 1998 and was co-chair of USA Wrestling’s Foundation Gala in 2016. Schultz Vitangeli was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006 and received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the California Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013.