USA Wrestling women’s wrestling leader David Lehman inducted into Franklin & Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

USA Wrestling leader David Lehman receives his F&M Athletics Hall of Fame award. (Photo by Franklin & Marshall College Athletics)

David Lehman, the 2018 USA Wrestling Man of the Year and a leader in the development of women’s wrestling in the nation, was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) on Friday, October 27.

Lehman, a 1968 graduate of F&M, competed in wrestling for Diplomats in college, where he competed in the 1967 EIWA Championships. He also played football for the Diplomats. Lehman was a major supporter of F&M wrestling throughout his life, providing a financial gift to endow the program. An annual open wrestling tournament hosted by F&M has been named in his honor, the David Lehman Open.

The Lehman Family became the largest financial supporter for USA Wrestling’s women’s wrestling program, when the Lehman Family Charitable Foundation donated $1.5 million over three years to advance the development of U.S. women athletes at the age-group levels through a new program, Women’s Olympic Wrestling (WOW). This support has helped the United States to become a leading World power in women’s wrestling, and led to the improved performance of the United States specifically at the age-group levels.

Attending Lehman’s F&M induction ceremony on behalf of the organization was USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic champion, four-time Olympic medalist and three-time World champion in freestyle wrestling.

The United States is currently the No. 2 women’s wrestling power on the Senior level, behind only Japan, and has consistently won a team trophy at the U17 and U20 World Championships. In 2021, the United States won the team title at the U20 World Championships and the U17 World Championships for the first time, with the athletes who competed on those team directly impacted by the Lehman Family support for USA Wrestling.

USA Wrestling’s age-group international success has flourished since WOW was initiated, rocketing from three age-group World medals in 2017 up to 14 age-group World medals in 2021 and 13 age-group World medals in 2022. The United States has dominated the Pan American Championships at the age-group level, winning the team title every year since the Lehman Family started to support the program.

Also inducted into the F&M Class of 2023 for the Athletic Hall of Fame were Elizabeth Eide '88 (women's lacrosse), Mary Ellen Gazda '89 (women's track & field, field hockey), Matt DesChamps '93 (football, contributor), Brendan James '98 (wrestling) and Tom Grabiak '10 (men's swimming).

David Lehman Hall of Fame recognition graphic. (Photo by Bruce Baumgartner)


Dave Lehman '68 (wrestling, football, contributor)

A 2018 inductee into the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Dave Lehman '68 competed under legendary coach W. Roy Phillips '34 and has certainly done his part in elevating the Diplomats' wrestling program both as a student-athlete and staunch supporter of the program. Lehman came to Franklin & Marshall from nearby Solanco High School and represented the Diplomats at the 1967 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships. Equally impressive was his contributions to the program following his graduation. Most notably, Lehman's $5 million gift in the fall of 2014 endowed the Division I program and continues to benefit future generations of F&M wrestlers. For his contributions to the team, the annual Franklin & Marshall Open – which just celebrated its 10th anniversary last season and annually attracts some of the top Division I wrestlers in the country – was renamed in his honor. During his undergraduate career, Lehman was also a member of the Diplomats' football team as F&M improved its conference finish during each of his three seasons with the varsity team. Following his graduation, Lehman additionally served on the F&M Board of Trustess from 2013-23.