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Medal of Courage - MATT “THE HAMMER” HAMILL, New York Mills, N.Y.



Matt Hamill was born deaf, but never let that stop him from becoming one of the most inspirational athletes to step foot on a wrestling mat.

A native of Loveland, Ohio, Hamill was introduced to wrestling by his stepfather, John Rich, who was head wrestling coach at Loveland High School. Because he couldn’t hear coaching instructions, he learned to wrestle with hands-on demonstrations. By the time he graduated, he had set Loveland wrestling records in eight different categories, including career victories.

He went to Purdue University on a full scholarship but transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) after one year to take advantage of the strong support of deaf students. At RIT, he won three NCAA Division III wrestling titles at three different weight classes. He was the Division III Outstanding Wrestler in 1998 and 1999. A prolific pinner, he was a three-time All-American, a three-time New York State Champion, and a three-time RIT Invitational Champion. He was undefeated his senior year, and compiled an impressive overall career college record of 89-3, setting pinning records along the way.

Hamill was the 1998 National Deaf Athlete of the Year. In 1999, the Rochester Press Radio Club awarded him the Male Collegiate Athlete of the Year. He graduated from RIT’s National Technology Institute for the Deaf with a degree in electro-mechanical technology in 1999. In 2007, he was welcomed into the RIT Athletics Hall of Fame.

In addition to his folkstyle wrestling accomplishments, Hamill earned gold medals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1997 “World Games for the Deaf” in Copenhagen, Denmark. Four years later, at the 2001 Deaflympics in Rome, the Ohio native earned silver in Greco-Roman and a gold in freestyle.

Hamill launched his Mixed Martial Arts career as a contestant on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter TV Series in 2006. After three wins, Hamill made a successful debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championships at UFC 98 in March 2007, retiring from the Octagon in August 2011 with an overall MMA record of 10-4.
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