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Hall of Fame State Chapter leaders meet and plan for the future

STILLWATER, OKLA. - One of the new features of Hall of Fame Honors Weekend this year was a meeting of the leaders from State Chapters programs. This group of grassroots leaders hosted annual meetings in the past, but this was the first time that they came to Oklahoma to see the National Wrestling Hall of Fame to participate in Honors Weekend.

Most of these leaders are very well known and active in their home states. However, being together at the national shrine for the sport helped them to truly come together for a shared vision for the Hall of Fame.

There were 35 leaders representing 25 state chapters, who attended the State Chapter Conference and participated in numerous seminars and workshops during the weekend.

"This gives each chapter a chance to talk to other chapters, and discuss what works for them. They share their ideas and experiences, all so we can do a better job recognizing people for their Lifetime Service," said Mike Clair, who directs the State Chapter program for the Hall.

Clair works directly with each State Chapter, assisting each of their Boards with organizing and conducting their program. Included is a nomination process in each state, as well as the process of promoting the banquet and pulling together the details of the evening.

The people who are honored in each state are recognized for their Lifetime Service, many whom have spent their entire lives building wrestling in their states. Their impact on wrestling has been tremendous, changing the lives of thousands of young people and their families. This program provides rewarding recognition for the grassroots leaders of the sport, the foundation of wrestling in our nation.

"The most important aspect of this award is to say thank you to these people for their lifetime service to our sport. If it were not for these veteran coaches and leaders we are thanking, we wouldn't have Olympians and NCAA champions. They had to learn the sport from somebody. Most of them have been influenced by coaches who have been there for 40 years," said Clair.

"The increasing walkup traffic at the Hall of Fame comes from former wrestlers who come to see their coach honored up on that wall. There is a bond. Most people attribute their success in life from what they learned through wrestling, and specifically from their coaches, officials and contributors," he said.

A number of states have been holding their Hall of Fame banquets for many years, with numerous coaches, referees and leaders already enshrined for their service. These well-developed states, such as Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Iowa, Oklahoma and many others, have continued to learn and grow. Some of the states represented have just started to build their program, and are using the knowledge from the other states to help build and expand what they do.

"It went really well," said Spencer Yohe, a leader in the Minnesota chapter and one of the presenters at the seminar. "There were a lot of good topics. We are all on the same page. It was very effective."

Clair felt that Yohe's presentation was one of the highlights of the weekend. Yohe is a legend in Minnesota, a high school coach and leader who has made a major impact on the wrestling for many years. When respected wrestling people like Yohe commit their experience and prestige to the State Chapter program, the program gains respect and builds success.

"He gave a tremendous presentation on how to cultivate a Board and how to go through the nomination process," said Clair. "In Minnesota, they take the entire Board and their families for a weekend in a cabin, somewhere up near the Canadian border. The Board gets together, does everything they need to do for the year and makes assignments for all the aspects of their program."

Included in the State Chapters weekend was an extensive tour of the Hall of Fame and Museum, including the large wall in the John Vaughan Wing where each of the State Chapters honorees are enshrined. Each of the honorees in their state will forever be recognized in the national museum. Lee Roy Smith, the Executive Director of the Hall of Fame, conducted the tour, explaining all of the different features and displays in depth.

Many of the State Chapters have become very successful in raising money for wrestling in their communities. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is starting a new capital campaign to expand and renovate the facility, and many of the State Chapters plan to assist in this effort. Having a chance to spend time in the Hall of Fame provided an opportunity to share in the vision for the future.

"The State Chapters are excited about being involved in the expansion program," said Clair. "We will work hard to make the dream of the State Chapter program continue to succeed."

The State Chapter leaders voted unanimously to hold their future meetings in Stillwater as part of Honors Weekend. The idea of bringing everybody together at the Hall of Fame, and to include them in all of the special functions during the national induction ceremonies, was a rousing success.

"This is the place to be," said Yohe. "This is the wrestling mecca of our nation. With this weekend, everything goes so well. Lee Roy Smith, Mike Clair and Stan Zeamer did a great job hosting us. The hospitality in Stillwater was tremendous. People are so helpful. This is wrestling heaven. We made this meeting permanent here. It will now be an annual event."

2007 State Chapter Conference attendees
Dick Besnier, Virginia
Mike Clair, National Wrestling Hall of Fame
Sam Crosby, New Jersey
Eddie Cook, South Carolina
Dave De Giacomo, Colorado
Jim Duschen, Nevada
Ken Estling, Iowa
Ernie Finizio, New Jersey
Ron Finley, Oregon
Jim Ford, New York
John Graham, Hall of Fame Board of Governors
Walt Hennebaul, Georgia
Joe Kaster, Wisconsin
Jim Keen, Chairman of the Board of Governors
Bill Lam, Michigan
Jerry Moore, Colorado
Bill Nelson, Iowa
Al Olsen, Minnesota
Lynette Olsen, Minnesota
Jim Pond, Oregon
Richard Salyer, Kansas
Gary Schaefer, Georgia
Jerry Seckler, New York
Rusty Shaw, Hall of Fame Board of Governors
Bob Smith, Colorado
Jack Stanbro, New York
Sonja Stanbro, New York
Robert Stancliff, Iowa
Marty Strayer, Pennsylvania
Arnold Torgerson, Colorado
Gary Townsend, Florida
Jane Townsend, Florida
Jerry Wager, Nevada
Sheila Wager, Nevada
Rex Wells, North Carolina
Spencer Yohe, Minnesota
Stan Zeamer, Hall of Fame Board of Governors
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