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Who were the Unique Award Winners of the past year?
The following was published in the July 5, 2013 Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine (WIN). WIN Magazine is printed 12 times each year, and is available through print ($29.95) and digital ($14.95) subscriptions. To subscribe to WIN Magazine, go to https://secure.msdservices.com/winmagazine/subscribe.
By Kyle Klingman
Here they are again: special awards, informally named after WIN Magazine, are
figuratively given to special people (in most cases) who did special things in wrestling this past wrestling year. Some of the awards are the same; some are different. However, you can be assured these awards are completely biased and no trophies will be awarded. Congratulations to all of the recipients.
Best dressed head coach:
Joe Heskett — No one can pull off a three-piece suit like the current head wrestling coach (right) at Army. Way to look sharp Joe.
Wrestling encyclopedia award:
Wayne Baughman — There can not be more than a handful of people on the planet who know as much about wrestling as Wayne Baughman.
Baughman’s wrestling and coaching credentials alone give him an edge over virtually everyone. He was a three-time NCAA finalist and an NCAA champion in 1962 for the University of Oklahoma; he won 16 national championships in four different wrestling styles (collegiate, freestyle, folkstyle, and sombo); he made Olympic Teams in 1964, 1968, and 1972; he coached the 1976 freestyle Olympic Team; and he was the long-time head wrestling coach at the Air Force Academy.
On top of that, Baughman knows everyone in the sport. Baughman also has total recall. His mind is wrestling’s most valuable historical resource, and his book — “Wrestling: On and Off the Mat” — is an essential read.
Rick Sanders Funk Award:
Nick Simmons — Sanders (the flamboyant wrestler who won the first World Championship in wrestling for the United States in 1969) died in a car accident after he won a silver medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. However, he has an award named in his honor. Like Sanders, Nick Simmons (known by some as the East Lansing Strangler) has a unique and wide-open wrestling style. Simmons continues to compete internationally, and he scores in bunches.
“May I shoot in on your legs?” asks one of Simmons’s opponents. “Yes, please,” responds Simmons. “I’ll turn you like a top if you do.”
Shock of the year:
IOC recommends wrestling’s elimination from the 2020 Olympics — The announcement that wrestling might get dropped from the 2020 Olympics took everyone by surprise, especially since wrestling was part of the original Games (708 B.C.). Wrestling received record coverage from the mainstream media after the announcement and the sport has gone on the offensive ever since to retain its rightful place in the Olympic Games.
Saving Olympic wrestling — Actors, sports figures, and political leaders have come to the aid of wrestling. There are even public service announcements promoting the sport. No sane person wants to see wrestling get cut from the Olympics.
Villain of the year:
International Olympic Committee — How could the International Olympic Committee drop wrestling?
Best interviewee (coach):
Cael Sanderson — The head wrestling coach at Penn State and 2004 Olympic champion was interviewed on the Jim Rome Show after the announcement that wrestling might be dropped from the Olympics. Sanderson spoke with poise and clarity. He even interjected surprising commentary on the value of the sport.
Best interviewee (athlete):
Jordan Burroughs — The 2012 Olympic gold medalist wants to be the face of wrestling. Fortunately for us, he IS the face of wrestling. Burroughs appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on August 14, 2012, and he gave the world a taste of his personality. During the London Olympics, the takedown artist famously said, “If the queen of England came onto the mat, I would probably double-leg her.”
Quote of the year:
“I’m a wrestling fan. I’ve said from the beginning you can’t take wrestling out of the Olympics. They deserve to be in there more so than baseball, softball, and squash,” — Casey Blake, who played 13 years in Major League Baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Photo op of the year:
2013 World Cup — How do you beat out wrestling legend Dan Gable and basketball legend Julius Erving (Dr. J) posing together at a Philadelphia 76ers game? You bring the United States and Iran together for a historic picture at the 2013 World Cup. Wrestlers, coaches, and leaders from the United States and Iran (two countries at odds politically) posed together (above) and shook hands at the conclusion of the Freestyle World Cup in Tehran. U.S. National team coach Zeke Jones and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs stood side-by-side with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a rare gesture of goodwill. (Flags from Iran and the United States were in the background too).
Argument of the year:
Should the NCAA tournament switch to a dual format? — The relevance of college wrestling duals has been a hot topic for years, so the National Wrestling Coaches Association decided to do something about it. They proposed a new format that would crown the best dual team as the NCAA team champion while continuing to award individual honors at the traditional NCAA tournament. Half the coaches liked the proposed changes; the other half despised them. Nearly all the Division I head wrestling coaches met in Illinois last September to discuss the issue and the proposed changes were eventually tabled. But the debate over an NCAA dual meet tournament lives on.
Controversy of the year:
Video review — College wrestling coaches can challenge the call of a referee during a match. But is that a good thing? It slows the flow of a wrestling match and it can be used strategically (i.e., a coach can question a call to get his wrestler some rest). There is also the matter of equity at the NCAA tournament. A team that qualifies 10 wrestlers gets the same amount of challenges (three) as a team that qualified one wrestler. Is that fair?
Moment of the year:
Kyle Dake (Cornell) wins fourth NCAA tournament — Burroughs and Jake Varner winning gold medals at the 2012 Olympics were in the mix, but Kyle Dake winning his four NCAA titles in four different weight classes wins out. ESPN SportsCenter even had a live interview with Dake moments after his victory over defending NCAA champion David Taylor. Sports Illustrated also named Dake its college male athlete of the year. It’s hard to beat that.
Innovator of the year:
ESPN — Finally, someone gets it right. The cable sports network switched its broadcast schedule to highlight the NCAA championship match at 165 pounds between David Taylor (Penn State) and Kyle Dake (Cornell). The first weight contested was 174 pounds so that wrestling’s premiere match would be last. Wrestling needs much, much more of this thinking.
Wrestling coverage of the year:
Des Moines Register — Some said Des Moines, Iowa, was too small to host the NCAA wrestling tournament, but that didn’t stop the Des Moines Register from providing unprecedented coverage of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Bryce Miller, Andy Hamilton, and staff were leaders in year-long coverage of the sport.
Celebrity wrestler of the year:
Billy Baldwin — The former Binghamton wrestler Billy Baldwin has become the celebrity face of the sport.
Matt Zeitz (Missouri) — Someone nominated Zeitz as the fairest referee in college wrestling … I had never heard of Zeitz, which means he must being doing his job right.
Entertainers of the year (group or ensemble):
Dremiel Byers, Ellis Coleman, Matt Lauer and Al Roker — Even though the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team did not win a medal at the 2012 Olympics, they did win the battle of public opinion. Greco-Roman wrestlers Dremiel Byers (264.5) and Ellis Coleman (132) provided wrestling instruction for Matt Lauer and Al Roker during the Olympics on the popular NBC TODAY show. Viewers chose the spot as the funniest TODAY moment of 2012. Coleman even snuck in a flying squirrel on Lauer.
Most guts/least time:
Jim Miller — The pressure started when the Wartburg College coach announced that the 2012-2013 wrestling season would be his last. Miller led this school, located in Waverly, Iowa, to nine NCAA
championships and 20 consecutive conference titles prior to this season. The 2013 NCAA tournament was being held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, one hour away from where Miller grew up in Waterloo. If Miller led his team to the NCAA team title he would match his long-time rival Jeff Swenson (Augsburg) at 10 team titles. The heavily favored Wartburg Knights did what they set out to do by dominating the 2013 NCAA wrestling tournament, and sending Miller out as a legend in the process.
Most guts/most time:
Coleman Scott — The 132-pound freestyler won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City, but that didn’t mean he made the Olympic Team. He had to wait for Shawn Bunch or Reece Humphrey to qualify the weight class at an international tournament, and then beat them both at the Beat the Streets gala in New York City. Bunch qualified the weight for the United States so the stage was set for a memorable battle between the three best wrestlers in the United States at 132 pounds.
Scott was third on the ladder, which meant he had to beat Humphrey and Bunch to make the team. Scott’s 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 win over Humphrey meant he would face Bunch in a best-of-three series for the Olympic berth. Scott won the first match 1-0, 0-1, 7-0. Bunch won the second match 1-1, 1-0, 1-0. The final match went to Scott with a 1-0, 5-0 win that included a spectacular throw to end the match and to make the Olympic Team. Scott took advantage of his opportunity in London by winning a bronze medal.
Best wrestling venue:
Carver-Hawkeye Arena — The knock on the home of the Iowa wrestling team is that the seats are too far away from the mat, but that doesn’t stop fans from packing the place. The University of Iowa averaged 8,764 people per wrestling dual during the 2012-2013 season, including 15,077 in the Hawkeye’s 22-16 win against Penn State. However, Carver-Hawkeye Arena gets the nod because they sold out the Olympic Wrestling Trials on consecutive days in April of 2012. They actually set attendance records for the Olympic Wrestling Trials three weeks before the event took place.
Philosopher of the Year:
Terry Steiner — Long ago, when head women’s national team coach Terry Steiner was being courted by USA Wrestling for the position, he wasn’t sure he wanted to coach female wrestlers. Now, he is women’s wrestling’s greatest advocate. Challenge Steiner about women’s place in the sport and he’ll get downright philosophical.
“If we truly believe that wrestling builds character and is the best sport in the world,” said Steiner, “then why would we limit it to half the population?”
Jordan Holm — The 185-pounder made the Greco-Roman World Team. His curly hair goes everywhere. May Holm’s hair continue to grow longer than Samson’s. Just don’t cut it before the Worlds.
Twitter handle of the year:
(tie) @alliseeisgold and @kyledake444 — Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) and Dake (@kyledake444) picked their twitter names before winning a gold medal at the Olympics (Burroughs in 2012) and winning four NCAA titles at four different weight classes in four straight years (Dake in 2013). Now that’s bold!
Mispronounced name of the year:
Ugi Khisignyam (The Citadel) — Try pronouncing that last name and see what you come up with. You might want to remember the name though. Khisignyam placed fourth at the 2013 NCAA tournament at 141 pounds as a freshman.