Wisconsin Chapter

Official State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Doreen's Story (Doreen Reinwand)

My name is Doreen Reinwand and I was the first female wrestling official in the Olympic styles of freestyle and Greco-roman in the state of Wisconsin. My involvement in wrestling began during my high school years at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln.  My first experience with wrestling came when two of my older brothers, who wrestled under the state’s most successful wrestling coach Lewie Benitz, decided their sister would be the perfect guinea pig to try out some of the newly learned moves.  Coach Benitz was also promoting support for his program with the newly organized Mat Maids of which I became a member.  Who would have known that a close teammate of my brother would indeed turn out to be my future husband?  Upon graduation in 1973, my involvement in wrestling took an interesting turn when future University of Wisconsin – Madison NCAA Champion Jack Reinwand began a courtship.  Our destiny was sealed when we decided to get married the next summer before Jack’s junior year at college.  The wedding dates were limited because Jack had a strict training and tournament schedule to keep!  I learned about the sport of wrestling through Jack and the UW-Madison and club wrestling programs.  By the time I had been married only a few years, I had attended two NCAA Division I championships, numerous major college tournaments, several freestyle national tournaments, world and world cup championships and extremely involved in helping Jack develop the Lodi High School wrestling program.  I had the opportunity to be in some of the top wrestling rooms in the nation as Jack’s training schedule was geared toward winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 1980.  On occasion, I even had to fulfill the role of drilling partner for Jack as he relentlessly trained.  Unfortunately, that dream did not come to fruition as the United States announced their intention to boycott the 1980 games and Jack refocused his efforts to taking Lodi wrestling to the state championships.  One thing that I continually observed in my early involvement in the sport was the need for quality officials.  Since I had access to relationships with some of the top freestyle/Greco-roman officials in the country, I asked them if I could become one of their ranks.  I had read the rulebook and felt I knew enough about the sport.  I was quickly encouraged to fill out the application to receive my first license in 1984.  I still remember my conversation with Ric Tucci, one of the world’s top officials, about how I could clearly apply the rules as they were written.  He quickly smiled and told me that I would soon enough learn that I would see the many shades of gray the rulebooks interpretations had but he felt confident that I could do the job.

I filled out my application and sent it off to USA Wrestling, the governing body for freestyle and Greco-roman.  I did attach a letter stating that I only wanted to be a freestyle official since I did not have experience with Greco-roman.  I received a call from USA wrestling and they informed me that was not possible.  You needed to work both styles but he felt that I could learn.  It became evident to me that this group of dedicated people would support and teach me.  I seized this opportunity to provide support to the sport I had learned to passionately love as my husband did.  I knew that Jack would be devoting all of his energies and time to the sport so it was better to join them than fight them!

I received my rulebook and license in April of 1984 and studied it from end-to-end.  I was blessed to have Jack explain situations to me that I could not understand.  I purchased the requisite white shirt and white pants and thought I was ready for my first tournament.

I can only imagine what the Stoughton wrestling community thought when I entered the gym for their annual freestyle tournament in the spring of 1984.  Little did I know how grueling and demanding it would be to give my very best to each and every athlete that graced my mat that day.  It was my goal as an official to treat each match as if it was the Olympic finals.  I felt that everyone deserved the best I could give.  The day was long and the matches just kept coming.  Since officials were in dire need, I guess they just needed me to stay.  It was quite an experience.  I hope that I was remembered fondly and I didn’t squelch too many up and coming young athletes dreams by the wrong call.  It was only a couple of weeks and UW Madison was hosting the Regional National Championships at the fieldhouse.  I again donned my white outfit and headed to Madison to attend the pre-tournament meeting.  I was greeted by some of the most awesome people from around the mid-west.  They embraced me and were willing to teach me how to become a skilled official.  This time I was not alone on the mat but paired with two other officials for each bout as required in the rule book.  This is the perfect learning situation.  Of the three officials, one whistles the match while on the mat, the arbitrator sits across from the score table and presents the points as they see them and the third is the Mat Chairman who provides the tie-breaking decision if the mat official and arbitrator do not agree.  I learned much that day.  I left with with more knowledge and advanced my rating from the beginner rating of M3 to an M2.  At this time in the state, only a handful of local and state tournaments were available to work and I did as many as possible to gain experience.

By the spring of 1985, I was again working the rounds of the local, regional and state wrestling tournaments.  We always worked alone on the mat in those days.  The best opportunity to learn and advance came by participating in tournaments such as the Central Junior Regional Nationals and the Northern Plains Regional Nationals as experienced officials provided in-depth clinics and evaluations through the tournament.  I worked hard to perfect my skills and was promoted to the rank of M1C in June after the Northern Plains Regional National Championships.

In 1986, I again began the circuit of local, regional and state tournament series.  I also received an invitation to the Junior National Freestyle and Greco-Roman championships in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I nervously boarded the bus with the Greco-Roman team and headed to Iowa for the week long tournament.  I had previously attended the tournament to watch with my husband who was one of Wisconsin’s coaches.  The Wisconsin Wrestling Federation took very good care of me and steered me in the right direction and I hooked up with the large officials group.  Picture in your mind the size of the UNI dome and the floor of the football field filled with mats.  By this time, I had made friends within the wrestling official’s community from around the nation.  Out of the 60 plus officials involved in the tournament, I seem to remember only three of us being woman.  The hours were long and the matches intense.  Throughout the tournament evaluations were done on young officials and when tournament was down to the place and championship matches, the evaluators would select officials that would work the finals.  The list was posted when we finished the session that led to the finals.  I walked up and there was my name.  I would be working a finals match.  I was honored but extremely frightened.  Was I ready?  This was only my third year of officiating.  Many who had worked the tournament had been trying to reach this level for many years.  It is the top honor to be selected.  I was selected to be the mat official and would control the match with my whistle.  Fortunately for me, the match was dominated by a very skilled wrestler and over very quickly.  For my efforts that year, I was awarded a promotion in my rank and received the MI status from the official’s organization.  I felt very honored.

The opportunity to work at this level of competition with the top officials provided me with more knowledge that I felt was important for the state of Wisconsin to have so that our athletes could prepare to be national champions.  Wisconsin possessed many skilled young athletes and the freestyle and Greco-roman tournament series was flourishing.  The need for mat officials was great in Wisconsin to meet the increased numbers at tournaments.

Each year I participated in as many tournaments as I could fit in.  It was hard work.  I would leave Lodi with a car load of young men for weigh-ins or sometimes weigh them in Lodi to save time on long trips and then spend the whole tournament on the mat.  There was no pay and no expenses were paid to officials early in my career.  You just volunteered your time because you loved the sport.  I was fortunate in the fact that because my husband wanted to be at the tournaments to help pass along his world medal knowledge it was not a hardship to invest the time and money.  Our young sons enjoyed the tournaments and many times were bout sheet runners.  It was a long weekend in 1987 when I traveled to Rockford, Illinois to officiate the Central Juniors.  Since I did not have lodging, I drove back into Wisconsin after the session was over on Thursday night and slept in the back of my car at a wayside.  I woke early headed back to Rockford and cleaned up at a MacDonald’s and then worked all day on the mat.  I repeated that again on Friday night but was very glad to get home to my bed on Saturday night.

As I gained experience and knowledge, it became time for me to help others.  I was often assigned head official or head clinician duties at tournaments around the Midwest.  It was an opportunity to help others as I had been helped.  As the Wisconsin Wrestling Federation grew there was a time when they needed a Head Official for the state.  I stepped into that role for several years and was a part of the governing board.  The time just seemed to fly by.  The season also expanded and there were now two national tournaments to attend in the summer with the addition of separate cadet national championships.  The dedication of the officials amazed me.  They were willing to take two weeks of their vacation time, travel to the designated site and work relentless for a week because they revered the sport of wrestling.  I was surrounded by the best athletes and officials.  Eventually many of the athletes I officiated became national champions and eventual Olympic champions (Dennis Hall, Garrett Lowney and Brandon Slay and many more).  I was almost always selected to work a finals match.  I was always willing to listen to coaches and athletes about their interpretation of a questionable call…..after the match!

It wasn’t easy being one of only a few woman officials.  Quite frequently I was told I didn’t understand the sport, or heard comments that I should “get back into the kitchen” or can you officiate when you’ve never wrestled.  At one state freestyle tournament, the head coach from one of the successful programs in the state became very angry at me for my influence of a call involving their son.  I received a three page negative letter from this individual but I could not let that deter me from my goal.  I felt that I had enough experience with the sport.  I had been to more major tournaments, attended wrestling camps and had one of the best that nations had to offer (my husband Jack) right at my beck and call to help me understand position on the mat.  I could call Russ Hellickson and Dan Gable my friends.  I could do this.

I knew that if I wanted to take my officiating to the next level, I had to take the opportunity to official an “open” level tournament, which translates to senior level athletes.  I also wanted to reach the highest ranking an official could attain of MIE.  The “E” equaled “exceptional”.  In 1991, I purchased a plane ticket to Las Vegas and headed to the Open.  It was quite an experience.  I would say that work this level is actually easier than a local tournament with youth.  The more skilled the wrestler the easier it was to anticipate the action.  Heavens you never knew where the green horn would end up!  It was hard to make the decision to go to this level tournament because they often coincided with a state level tournament and that is where my heart was.  But I wanted to see if I could earn my exceptional rating.

I was very fortunate in my career to be selected to work some great tournaments.  I was assigned the Olympic Sports Festival for a week in St. Louis.  To receive airline tickets in the mail purchased by the Olympic committee sent chills down my spine.  We were housed in awesome accommodations in their “Olympic village”.  The opening ceremony under the St. Louis arch was amazing.  The one big advantage to being assigned to work tournaments by the national office is that your expenses were paid.  Wisconsin Wrestling Federation was also working hard early in my career to provide expenses for the officials.  It was the least you could do for someone who would volunteer to work 12 hours on the mat.  I was selected to work the woman’s world team trials and many events such as this.  This commitment came with a price too.  I was fortunate that my husband was usually their coaching and that my sons choose to participate in wrestling but I did have to travel.  I was even being urged to obtain my international FILA license because the USA organization felt I had the skill to go to the next level.  It was very tempting.  But when you get that call at a national tournament from your husband because your son broke his ankle while you were gone and you weren’t there to help or when my husband tore his hamstring almost completely off and you couldn’t get home for two days to help kept me from reaching out to that goal.  Or you missed visiting your mother in the hospital when she had open heart surgery.  You hadn’t been to many family functions because you were always at a tournament.

My sons were in high school and we planned a trip to Florida so I could again work a senior level tournament in an attempt to earn my “E”.  As always, it’s exciting to work that level of competition.  The tournament went fine for me but not my two sons.  One broke his collar bone and the other got a serious infection.  But when the rankings came out at the end of the season, my name was on that list.  I had been awarded the highest ranking possible for a United States official.  I was elated.  My license book had been signed by Ric Tucci with the “E” added to MI.   Actually, I had been at the world championships when Ric had been awarded the golden whistle for his outstanding efforts.  I was humbled to now be in the ranks of the best in the nation.

At one point in my career, I though it might be possible to officiate high school WIAA matches.  I wanted to take the knowledge and skilled I had gained and bring it to the mat for the WIAA.  I wanted to introduce the type of evaluation system we had used to help young officials earn their ranking.  I was encouraged by the fact that high school coaches who had seen me work the tournaments said they would have no problem hiring me.  I secured the necessary licensure and Vern Pieper arranged for me to work a JV match.  It only took me that one time to learn that they were not ready for me.  The skill I had would not easily transfer to folkstyle in the 80’s.  I also realized that I could not support my husband’s successful program in Lodi if I was working dual meets and tournaments.  So my WIAA officials career lasted that one dual meet.

It was an awesome, short but intense career.  The time just flew by and I made many friends.  All of a sudden, my older son was graduating from high school.  He was pursuing a career as  Navy SEAL and soon my younger son would graduate.  My mother’s health was not improving and it seemed I had a decision to make.  I either intensified my career in officiating and gained my FILA license and made my bid to work world and Olympic events or I moved on.  It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but my family always came first.  I attended my final junior national tournament in 1998 and told them of my decision to make this my final tournament.  I can clearly recall word spreading throughout the tournament to the coaches and officials I had seen for many years.  I was shocked when many told me that they were very sorry that I would be stepping down.  Although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on the calls, they knew that when their athletes stepped on the mat with me they would receive fair and consistent calls.  Again, I was extremely humbled by their words.  I was selected to work one last finals match of my career.  It went smoothly and it still brings tears to my eyes when the announcer stated that this would be my last match.  As I was leaving the raised podium one last time, a bouquet of red roses was handed to me by the head official and my eyes clouded with tears to be leaving this all behind and then all the officials, coaches and fans stood up in a standing ovation.  I was humbled beyond what I could describe to you to have had this opportunity in life.


Yours in wrestling,

Doreen Reinwand

USA Wrestling #2805


2006 Doreen Reinwand   Lifetime Service   Lodi (Large)


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