SCMAT Exclusive Wrestling Article 10-20-08
National Wrestling Hall of Fame SC Chapter year 2, ... the stories keep getting better!
2008 NWHOF Inductees from SC (left to right) Bill Lam - NWHOF Representative for State Chapter Programs Ed Steers - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award John Checkovich - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award Hank Hammond - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award Larry Keeter - "Medal Of Courage" Award Rusty Hamilton - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award Eddie Cook - Chairman for the NWHOF South Carolina Chapter The May 4, 2008 Banquet for SC's Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame was another great success! Thanks to the hard work of our State Chairman for the NWHOF SC Chapter, Coach Eddie Cook, the 2008 event was even larger than 2007. Returning for the second straight year was our National Representative from the NWHOF, Coach Bill Lam (former UNC-Chapel Hill wrestling coach). The stories kept getting better ... everyone attending was treated to hearing Coach Rusty Hamilton talk about the early years of South Carolina wrestling from 1967-1970 when he launched St. Andrews' wrestling program and won the first two state team titles. Coach John Checkovich also started Brookland Cayce's wrestling program in the first season of 1968-1969 and contributed his stories of starting the North/South All-Star Classic and the SC Wrestling Coaches Association. Coach Hank Hammond has contributed to the sport in every way imagineable. As a head coach, as an official, as the director of the Carolina Invitational. Coach Ed Steers wrestling for The Citadel and telling of his coaching days at West Point. Larry Keeter's inspirational stories of still wrestling, though he is paralyzed from his waist down from a non-wrestling school activity. More details on each inductee will be below, but it's important to note that the honor of being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall Of Fame is not just a state honor. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, through the South Carolina Chapter, recognizes the efforts of coaches, teachers, and contributors to the sport of wrestling through several awards. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame recognizes individuals in one of three categories: Lifetime Service to Wrestling (awarded annually) Medal of Courage (awarded when appropriate) Outstanding American (awarded when appropriate) The Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award honors and recognizes dedicated individuals for their years of commitment to wrestling. The award is not about win/loss records. It is about a person's dedicated efforts to help young people to not only succeed in wrestling, but also in life. The Medal of Courage Award is given to a wrestler who has overcome overwhelming adversity to be successful on the mats and in his own life. The Outstanding American Award is presented to an individual who was a former wrestler and has received state or national acclaim in his/her chosen profession. Each award recipient is permanently recognized in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Stillwater, Oklahoma) with a embossed name plaque, and each will receive a plaque and jacket to commemorate the honor. Thanks to the many coaches and volunteers that made this second year a success! Now, let me tell you a bit about each of the 2008 Inductees into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame: Larry Keeter - "Medal Of Courage" Award - Wrestling for Fort Mill, Larry Keeter was a two time State placer finishing third in the state at 125 pounds in 2006 and fourth in the state at 112 pounds in 2005. Two years ago, Keeter was planning on attending college on a wrestling scholarship until a fall from the alpine tower at the Fort Mill High School ropes course on May 5, 2006 left him with a shattered vertebrae in his back. He fell 20 feet from the school ropes course and landed on his feet during the school's Spring Fling field day. Though he was wearing a harness, the rope slipped and the impact fractured his spine. The alpine tower at Fort Mill that Keeter fell from has been mismantled and taken down. Keeter is now dependent on a wheelchair, but it does not slow him down. He has a positive outlook on life and a beaming smile. Keeter attends the Information Technology Training Center in Columbia to become certified in PC Technologies/Repair. He goes back to Fort Mill High School as often as he can and helps the wrestling program. He remains muscular and built and often jumps out of his wheelchair and onto the mats to wrestle. As his coach Chris Brock would share with the Fort Mill Times, "For someone who loves wrestling as much as he does and to have such a change in his life, like he has and to continue to be around the sport and have the same jovial attitude, its amazing. The values, determination and grit was helped by wrestling. Wrestling is a sport where you are on that mat and when you win, it's public and when you lose, it's public. It's all you. To see him continue the love for the sport and maintain that outlook on life is amazing." Larry Keeter would go on to add in the Fort Mill Times interview, "I'm hoping for the best and working for the best. Now don't get me wrong, I have bad days. I wish it wouldn't have happened. I sometimes don't like to accept things, but it is what it is. It's a part of my life. You have to take it and move on. The wheelchair is a part of me. If you dwell on it, you are going to have a sad life." Coach Chris Brock said he nominated Keeter for the "Medal Of Courage" Award for his resilience in bouncing back after such adversity. Coach Brock spoke prior to Larry taking the stage at the banquet and gave us all inspiration with the Rudyard Kipling poem "If", added here as a reminder that if we meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same, you'll be a Man ... one of Courage and now in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Larry's dreams and future achievements are well on their way to redefining South Carolina wrestling determination for eternity. "If" If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you But make allowance for their doubting too, If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream--and not make dreams your master, If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much, If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son! By Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Coach Rusty Hamilton - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award - Coach Rusty Hamilton started the St. Andrews' wrestling program in 1967 and was determined to prove that the Lower State wrestling programs could achieve domination over the Upper State programs, which had been wrestling several years longer. Hamilton recalled going to a wrestling clinic with over 500 youth attending in December 1965 led by The Citadel. He knew then that he wanted to be a part of starting the sport in South Carolina at the High School level. Two years after the clinic he would get approved by the St. Andrews' Athletic Director to start the wrestling program with a budget of $1,000. He bought several gym mats, a cover to keep the gym mats together and have it resemble a wrestling mat and some free weights. In January 1967 the St. Andrews' wrestling team and James Island squared off in the first official Lower State match. James Island would win, igniting a passion in the young Coach Hamilton to never lose again. His teams would go undefeated for the next 3 years and win the first two State titles in 1969 and 1970. Coach Hamilton left St. Andrews and moved to The Citadel the next year, though remained involved in coaching wrestling at The Citadel when they needed his talents. His stories kept the banquet crowd laughing throughout the evening. He continues to help promote the history of our sport across South Carolina and has a thousand worthy stories that deserve to go in our state's history book. His energy level and daily routine still blur the competition. Colonel James Roberts, last year's recipient of the "Outstanding American" Award, introduced Coach Hamilton. The story of the St. Andrews' wrestlers receiving slices of orange in the bowl mat side will be long remembered by all banquet attendees. As Colonel James Roberts would share about once missing the orange slice after a loss, he pulled an orange out and exclaimed "Coach Hamilton, you were a winner then and a winner now, come get your Orange!" Coach John Checkovich - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award - Coach John Checkovich provided over thirty years of devotion to wrestling in South Carolina. Known fondly to all as Coach Check, he often was referred to as the Father (or Dean) of South Carolina Wrestling for his longevity of service and remarkable contributions. Checkovich was born in Coronado, CA and moved to South Carolina after high school to play football at Wofford College. In 1965 he started his teaching career in Dublin, GA, covering social studies and government. In 1966, he moved to Chapin High School where he taught social studies and science, was Head Football Coach and Athletic Director. Coach Check was hired by Brookland Cayce High School in 1968 to teach science, social studies, drivers education and chemistry. He also coached football, track, volleyball and wrestling. His selection for coaching wrestling was somewhat a "chance encounter". The Administrators approached him during the 1968-1969 season and said B.C. needed to add a sport, either soccer or wrestling, which one did he want to coach. He selected wrestling, and we have been the better ever since. From 1969-2000, with 32 years of coaching wrestling, his career mark was 315-140 at Brookland Cayce. His wrestlers won individual State Championships, competed in college, and produced top ten team finishes 24 times. He was SC Wrestling Coach of the Year 3 times and Southeastern Coach of the Year once. He helped start the SC Wrestling Coaches Association, where he served as President, Secretary-Treasurer and received their Service Award four times. He helped start the North/South All-Star Classic and ran the event at Brookland Cayce for many years. He ran the State Individual Tournament for many years and had a gift of getting the hard work done to pull off big events. Coach Check started the Brookland Cayce Takedown Tournament in 1973 and it became the first real test of each season. He also coached volleyball at B.C., and the 2003 team won the State AAA Championship. He was Region Coach of the Year seven times and SC Volleyball Coach of the Year once. In 2007, Coach Check was inducted into the Brookland-Cayce High School Educator Hall Of Fame. And in 2001, Coach Check received the Order of the Palmetto from Governor Jim Hodges. He received this award for his influence on his students and the members of all of his teams, along with his service to sports in South Carolina and his contributions to his community and the state. As he commented to The State Newspaper reporter after receiving the Order of the Palmetto award at his surprise wrestling retirement party in December 2001, "I didn't know what to say, but I never could have believed I would recieve that. Not an old wrestling coach like me." Typical Check humility! Now you are in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame! Long time friend, Coach Jim Barnes, gave the introduction for Coach Check and it was fitting to see Coach Barnes provide the compliments on how far wrestling has come in 40 years with John Checkovich's contributions. Coach Hank Hammond - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award - Coach Charles (Hank) Hammond graduated from Appalachian State in 1972 and quickly began making his mark in South Carolina with his contributions to wrestling. Coach Hammond started the Carolina Open Tournament in Rock Hill shortly after arriving in S.C. and this became known as the State JV and Middle School tournament. It grew so big, with over a 1,000 entries each year on the last Saturday of January, that he decided to hand it to the S.C. Wrestling Coaches Association last year. In its place, Hammond started the state's first statewide JV and Middle School Duals tournament. Hammond coached wrestling for years, primarily at Sullivan Middle School in the Rock Hill area from 1973-1984. He was hired along with former Rock Hill coach Tom Ellenberger to start the Winthrop wrestling team. It was dropped before a match was ever wrestled due to Title IX but he continued coaching and also is considered by many to be one of the top-rated officials in the state. Sunny Justice and Bo Willard gave the introductions for Coach Hank Hammond and they gave him the highest compliment stating he has always been known for his Character and devotion to improving wrestling in South Carolina. Coach Ed Steers - "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Award - Coach Ed Steers has been involved in wrestling for the better part of his lifetime. Prior to starting his coaching career, Steers became one of the most celebrated wrestlers in The Citadel's history. Enshrined in The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980, Steers led the wrestling team to its first Southern Conference title in 1967 (the second title came in 2004). He was never defeated in a dual-match during his college career. Steers was a three-time Southern Conference champion in 1966, 1967 and 1968 and was named the league’s outstanding wrestler in 1967. He wrestled in the NCAA wrestling tournament twice, in 1967 and 1968. He had successful coaching career at Army, William & Mary and East Carolina and also served as The Citadel’s Associate Athletics Director for Compliance and Student Services. He currently serves as the Athletic Director at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston. While head wrestling coach at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York from 1980-1989 his teams compiled a record of 151-37-2 and won the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Wrestling Championships in 1987, including an 11th Place finish at the 1987 NCAA Championships. He was the 1985 and 1987 EIWA Coach of the Year. Coach Steers humbleness is evident as seen in the 2004 quote to The Post and Courier after The Citadel won it's second ever Southern Conference title and was compared to Steers' 1967 team championship as a wrestler at The Citadel. He said "What these kids are doing now is a whole different thing. They are better than we were. Some of those guys from back then will never admit it, but I'll tell them to their face. What those kids are doing now is a war. The season is longer, the training is harder, the academics are harder. What they are doing right now is much greater than what we did." Dick Besneir introduced Coach Ed Steers and surprised his former coach, along with several other former West Point wrestlers, by presenting him a United States Military Academy Saber (seen in photos below). Coach Steers was the first with S.C. wrestling ties to move into the national spotlight of collegiate wrestling coaching, paving the way for other S.C. wrestlers like Tom Borrelli (Central Michigan), Dan Wirnsberger (Bucknell) and Jason Valek (Newberry) to make their mark coaching successful college programs. And for all interested in the photo highlights of the 2nd National Wrestling Hall of Fame South Carolina Chapter Banquet, here are some pictures from this year's Banquet: Ed Steers receiving the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Ed Steers photo 1 Ed Steers photo 2 Ed Steers photo 3 Ed Steers photo 4 Ed Steers photo 5 Ed Steers photo 6 Ed Steers photo 7 Ed Steers photo 8 Ed Steers photo 9 Hank Hammond receiving the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Hank Hammond photo 1 Hank Hammond photo 2 Hank Hammond photo 3 Hank Hammond photo 4 John Checkovich receiving the Lifetime Service to Wrestling John Checkovich photo 1 John Checkovich photo 2 John Checkovich photo 3 Rusty Hamilton receiving the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Rusty Hamilton photo 1 Rusty Hamilton photo 2 Rusty Hamilton photo 3 Larry Keeter receiving the Medal of Courage Larry Keeter 1 Larry Keeter 2 Larry Keeter 3 Banquet room photo 1 Banquet room photo 2 Banquet room photo 3 Banquet room photo 4 Banquet room photo 5 Banquet room photo 6 Banquet room photo 7 TT Prayther received the 2008 Dave Schultz award for S.C. 2008 NWHOF Inductees from S.C. And, in case you missed last year's main event, visit the link below: National Wrestling Hall of Fame SC Chapter year 1 - 2007
Hopefully in this SCMAT exclusive article for 2008-2009 the history of SC wrestling is defining itself as an exciting past with a future awaiting more greatness. These historical articles at SCMAT will hopefully provide accurate facts though we may always have missed some data at some point. If you notice a correction, addition or just want to comment please send a reply to firstname.lastname@example.org thanks, Mark Buford