Arno Niemand

June 01, 1934 - November 01, 2022

Ask any who know him to describe Arno Niemand and they will say quite simply that, “he loves wrestling.” Men’s wrestling, women’s wrestling, folkstyle wrestling, freestyle wrestling, it doesn’t matter. Niemand, the winner of the Order of Merit, is so passionate about the sport that he has devoted significant portions of his time, creativity and financial resources to wrestling for most of his adult life.

Niemand’s love affair with wrestling began in the early 1950s as a prepster competing for Mercersburg Academy and as team captain for Phillips Academy. He earned a varsity spot at Cornell University and helped his team to a second-place finish in the EIWA and a third-place finish in the 1953 NCAA championships. His experiences earned him the nickname “Grappler,” shortened by his friends into “Graps,” and instilled in him a lifelong devotion to the sport.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from Cornell in 1956 and his master’s degree from in 1958 from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, Niemand served as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1958-60. He then went to work for Niemand Industries, a $20-million sales specialty packaging company. He became president and chief executive officer, serving in that position for 20 years before becoming chairman for five more.

His book, "The Dream Team of 1947," tells the story of the small Cornell College team in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, that inconceivably won the NCAA national wrestling championship.

In 1990, he founded Body Bar Systems, a producer of fitness products sold around the world, which has been lead sponsor of USA Wrestling’s Women’s National Team, helping to pioneer the sport through its first two Olympiads. The company also sponsors collegiate wrestling tournaments.

Niemand was a driving force in Cornell’s recent resurgence and was instrumental in helping the school to build a new wrestling facility and a women’s softball field. He has been a financial supporter of the National Wrestling Coaches Association “Building Leaders for Life” program.

In addition, he has supported the College Sports Council in its battle for true gender fairness in sports, the New York Athletic Club, the Mercersburg Academy wrestling program and has been a long-time board member of Excel Wrestling Club in Colorado.

Niemand was presented the USA Wrestling Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 and was awarded the FILA Gold Star for 2008, the highest award granted by the international governing body.

He is member of the Cornell Hall of Distinguished Wrestling Alumni and an Honorary Cornell College Alumnus.

At a time when the sport of wrestling needed more energy and support than ever before, Niemand provided it.


Outstanding American
New York - Downstate
Order of Merit

Our Mission: To honor the sport of wrestling by preserving its history, recognizing extraordinary individual achievements, and inspiring future generations