New Jersey Chapter

Official State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

New Jersey Chapter Inducts Six Into Its Class of 2023

Attended by 390 enthusiastic fans of the sport, the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored five men for Lifetime Service and one as an Outstanding American at its 23rd induction ceremony.

The event was held Sept. 24 at the Westin Princeton.

“A great day honoring six great men associated with the sport of wrestling,’’ is the way banquet chairman Frank Sica put it. “And it was such a respectful audience for the honorees.”

Mike Suk was among those receiving the Lifetime Service award. He is ranked ninth in the state with 471 high school victories.

“I would like to thank the members for a wonderful day and my nomination,’’ he said from a podium in the ballroom. “You left no stone unturned in making this induction a classy and memorable experience. I would also like to thank the wonderful people who recommended me and wrote letters on my behalf to make this day possible. I am truly touched.”

Though the words were varied, the messages from all the inductees were of gratitude and humility. Even a few tears.

“Obviously I’m flattered,’’ Lifetime Service award winner said Bill Voliva, a long time successful high school coach and referee. “I feel there are more qualified people than I am. I put the time in, but honestly I was shocked.”

Not only did he wrestle in college, at the University of Virginia, he also played football. On the mat he reached the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament finals three times and twice won ACC titles.

After retiring 26 years from coaching high school, Joe Dougherty has gone on to coach on the middle school level for more than 10 years. He is also a Hall of Fame member at two high schools as well as the State Coaches Association.

“I’m honored and humbled to be here,” he said. Pausing, he added, “I’d like a moment of silence for those who had a profound impact on my life and are no longer with us; including family, friends and former athletes.”

Health issues kept V. Miller Preston from attending. Only 17 high school coaches have more wins than he accrued during his 32 years as a coach, a career that produced a record of 397-134-7. He wrestled at Ursinus College three years.

“The first person my father would want to thank would be his loving bride and our mother Lynn,’’ said his daughter Jennifer, one of his three children. “She was a constant companion, cheerleader, and supported him during his wrestling career. He could not have had the success he had if not for her.

“She enjoyed the successes, but it did come with sacrifices, which wives in this room know very well I’m sure. The early dinners, late dinners, long weekend tournaments. Year after year she was at all the matches, and brought us all in tow.”

Michael Cunningham’s grandfather introduced him to the sport, bringing him to high school and college matches. “I’ve been traveling that road ever since,’’ he said.

He would go on to win a National Prep School championship, and then wrestled at Bloomsburg before an injury cut short his career.

“My presence here is due to hundreds of people whom I’ve met through the sport of wrestling,’’ he said. “They’re the ones responsible for the successes I’ve enjoyed, because no one really makes a success by himself.”

The Outstanding American award went to Dr. Walter Grote. For more than 40 years he has been affiliated with Newton Medical Center and St. Clare’s Hospital. He practices internal medicine with Premier Health Associates and regenerative/sports medicine with Prolotherapy and Integrated Medicine.

A four-time All-American at Cornell, he was also an alternate on the 1976 U. S. Olympic Freestyle team and a four-time New Jersey Senior AAU champion. Representing the New York Athletic Club, he won a national title in the 1978 U.S. Wrestling Federation Tournament.

“Wrestling is something that has always been close to my heart,” he said. “Even though I went into medicine, a lot of my medicine is focused on athletes, and wrestlers in particular.”

It was Suk who perhaps best summed up the Lifetime Service honorees.

“It’s very humbling,’’ he said. “I look at it as a shared award. People have gone with me on a journey 35 years. My family, my wrestlers, administrators and communities I worked in, coaches, officials.

“It’s relationships that you build throughout the years; especially with your wrestlers. I’m still in contact with a number of them, watching them grow. It’s been great,’’ he added. “Without them, this would never have happened.” See photo attachment below

Written by Paul Franklin, NJ Chapter Board Member

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