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3 Days left to get rare wrestling memorabilia, support great cause
Photo: This signed headgear by Dan Gable, Cael Sanderson and Kyle Dake is among the items being auctioned off this week — with the winners announced at this weekend’s LiUNO Open — to honor the lives of Maxton “Max” Soviak (left) and Rylee McCollum, two former wrestlers who were among the 13 military personnel killed at the Aug. 26 airport attack in Afghanistan.
By Sandy Stevens
Mike Manahan, a state of Illinois wrestling coach and tournament director of the LiUNA Open, has collected signed wrestling mementoes, and he has gathered some one-of-a-kind treasures and exceptional items any fan would be excited to own.
Manahan possesses, for example, an April 1, 1957, Sports Illustrated cover featuring Oklahoma Sooner mat champ Danny Hodge, the only amateur wrestler to appear on the cover of the iconic sports magazine in its nearly 70-year history. The legendary Hodge signed the cover prior to his death last December at age 88.
Another matchless item among Manahan’s treasures is a single headgear signed by Hodge and three other incredible champions: Dan Gable, Cael Sanderson and Kyle Dake.
But here’s what’s unique about Manahan’s stash: None of it is for him.
Each item is being auctioned off this month with every penny raised going to the families of Rylee McCollum and Maxton “Max” Soviak, two former wrestlers who were among 13 U.S. service members killed in an Aug. 26 airport attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo., was a multiple-time state qualifier wrestling out of Jackson Hole High School.
On his 18th birthday, McCollum chose to offer his service to the country and do what it took to become one of the Few and the Proud.
For a story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, McCollum’s former wrestling coach Ben Arlotta recalled that since the day they met, Rylee was always the hardest-working wrestler in the room, even when he was a 5-year-old “spunky little roly-poly of a kid.”
He worked out twice a day, every day, no matter whether it was wrestling season or not, Arlotta said. One of his shining moments was winning a Triple Crown at the state tournament, without allowing a single point to be scored against him.
McCollum’s wife, Gigi, delivered their first child three weeks after his death.
U.S. Navy Corpsman Maxton “Max” Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, enlisted in the Navy in September 2017. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was a Navy Hospital Corpsman, embedded with the Marines, providing medical help and assistance. This athletic standout was a proud member of Edison High School’s state championship wrestling team his senior year, but he participated in four sports during his high school career: wrestling, football, tennis and track and field. (And band!)
One of his proudest achievements was helping found a Biddy Wrestling/Jiu-Jitsu program while stationed in Guam.
Both McCollum and Soviak were past USA Wrestling members.
Fifteen items are up for bid from Oct. 15 to 4 p.m. Oct. 30, with winners revealed during the inaugural LiUNA (Laborers’ International Union) Open at Illinois State University, featuring first grade through open divisions for males and females.
“The wrestling memorabilia, signed by some of the most famous wrestlers our country has ever produced, were signed in my presence,” Manahan stressed. “All of the money raised will go directly to those two families.”
In addition to the Sports Illustrated cover and the headgear signed by Hodge, Gable, Sanderson and Dake, other items up for auction are:
• Headgear signed by NCAA champion Anthony Robles;
• Headgear signed by three-time World champ Kyle Dake;
• Two headgear signed by Olympic champion and World silver medalist David Taylor;
• Four 2016 Olympic singlets signed by some U.S. Olympians, donated by A.L. Haizlip, aka The Sports Announcer;
• 2019 NCAA chair signed by national champion Anthony Cassar;
• 2018 NCAA chair signed by national champions Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal;
• Unsigned 2020 NCAA chair with an NCAA ticket from the tournament that did not happen because of the pandemic;
• 2021 unsigned NCAA chair;
• Signed Dan Gable singlet, one of only 100 made;
Manahan, a member of the Illinois Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Midlands Hall of Fame, has never been a serviceman, but he chose to hold the auction to benefit the servicemen’s families, he said, “because they’re former wrestlers.
“I had all these things, and what are you going to do with them, just let them sit about? This way they’ll go to somebody who really appreciates the sport, the people and its history.”
After Manahan shared his plans with the servicemen’s families, Soviak’s father, Kip, said that the family plans to give some of the money to the Biddy Wrestling/Jiu-Jitsu program their son started in Guam.
He also noted that his son Griffin, also a wrestler, is a fan of Kyle Dake. When Griffin told Dake that his brother had been killed, Dake sent him a personal video of condolence.
Jim McCollum, Rylee’s father, sent a “thank you” bordered with hearts and flags. Then he added, “I’m so glad we’re part of the Marine and wrestling families.”
To view and bid on the items, go to Proxibid.com. The auctioneer is Jeff Prochnow (prochnowAuctions@gmail.com). Anyone with questions, Manahan said, can call at (309)275-0215 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for the LiUNA Open, go to Trackwrestling.com.
(Sandy Stevens is a long-time public address announcer of national and international events and was named to the National Hall of Fame in 1998.)