USA Wrestling's Executive Committee has named Rich Bender of Colorado Springs, Colo. as its acting Executive Director. Bender currently serves as the Associate Executive Director for Programs with the organization.
James E. Scherr, who has served as Executive Director of USA Wrestling for the past 10 years, has accepted the position of Senior Managing Director, Sport Resources with the U.S. Olympic Committee and will assume his new duties with the USOC full-time on December 11.
"USA Wrestling is fortunate to have Rich Bender to serve as the acting Executive Director," said USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner. "Rich brings proven leadership skills and invaluable experience to the position. He has served USA Wrestling for over a decade, most recently as Associate Executive Director, and has excelled in every position. Rich's leadership will be invaluable in upholding USA Wrestling's strong tradition of achievement and excellence."
"I am honored and excited to be given this opportunity to lead what, I believe, is the one of the top organizations in amateur sports," said Bender. "I fully intend to utilize the many assets of USA Wrestling to push the sport forward into the new millennium. We are at a unique point in the history of our sport. Never before has the organization had such depth, from the strength of our national staff and grassroots organizations to the depth and talent of our National Team and coaches. USA Wrestling will strive to continue to sustain, grow and build these strengths."
Bender has worked full-time for USA Wrestling for nearly 12 years. He was promoted to the position of Associate Executive Director of Programs a year ago, a key position in the organization's revised corporate structure. In his past position, Bender oversaw USA Wrestling's events, National Teams and developmental programs activities. He played a leadership role in the preparation of the 2000 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, which had a strong seven-medal performance in Sydney, Australia.
He previously served as USA Wrestling's National Events Director, where he developed an expanding schedule of regional, national and international events for the organization. These events have provided quality wrestling opportunities for hundreds of thousands of U.S. wrestlers, from youth through Olympic hopefuls.
Bender has supervised the organization and promotion of many major events including the 1995 World Freestyle Championships, numerous age-group World Championships, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the U.S. Olympic Festival, the World Cup, the Goodwill Games, and numerous World Dual meets.
Bender also served as the Competition Manager for wrestling at the 1996 Olympic Games, working for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG). Bender organized a staff which presented one of the best Olympic wrestling competitions in history. Over 115,000 fans witnessed the outstanding wrestling competition that Bender managed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He was awarded a FILA Gold Star for his efforts on behalf of Olympic wrestling.
Under Bender's leadership, more fans have attended major USA Wrestling events than ever before. The 1996 Freestyle Olympic Team Trials in Spokane, Wash. drew a record 23,000 spectators, including over 9,000 spectators for the finals. That record was almost doubled at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Dallas, Texas, which sold a total of 50,170 tickets, including a final session attendance of over 10,000 fans.
In addition, more people are competing in USA Wrestling national events than ever before. During the 2000 season, over 18,000 athletes participated in regional, national and international events conducted by USA Wrestling. New events and programs are continuing to be developed to meet the needs of the membership. USA Wrestling now hosts national championships for men and women in freestyle, Greco-Roman and folkstyle wrestling on many age levels.
The largest wrestling tournament in the world is held each year in Fargo, N.D., as up to 3,500 young athletes compete in the combined Cadet Nationals and Junior Nationals. This event is an annual highlight of the national wrestling season.
Bender served as a U.S. Olympic Committee intern in the fall of 1988. He was hired as Events Assistant for USA Wrestling in January 1989, and became Manager of National Events in September 1989.
He received a degree in Sports Management and Business Administration from the Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1988. Bender was a three-sport athlete at Boscobel High School, earning two varsity letters each in football, baseball and wrestling. He and his wife Michelle have two daughters, Madeline and Chloe.