Hall of Famer Werner Holzer passes away

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Werner Holzer, a Distinguished Member inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1993, passed away on Monday, at the age of 81.

There will be a celebration of life on December 8 in Fall Brook, California.

Werner Holzer
"Werner Holzer's contributions to our sport cannot be measured by his wrestling and coaching career alone," said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. "He possessed a great desire and motivation to advance the developmental structures and opportunities so that wrestlers could excel at every level of the sport. His persistence to help the sport's National Governing Body (USA Wrestling) attain a new culture of leadership and opportunities in the 1970s and 1980s should never be forgotten."

After helping launch kids, junior and adult programs across the state of Illinois, Holzer carried his fight for the development of wrestling into the halls of Chicago's city government. He emerged as founder, fundraiser, athlete and coach for the Mayor Daley Youth Foundation, and led his club to 15 national freestyle and Greco-Roman titles.

During those same years, 1966 to 1978, Holzer carried out an even greater campaign, a successful challenge to the powerful authority governing amateur wrestling. He played a key role in establishing the United States Wrestling Federation, which became the sport's national governing body under the name USA Wrestling. As its president, Holzer guided the organization through its long and bitter struggle for national recognition in arbitration and in the courts. He is the author of History of the United States Wrestling Federation/USA Wrestling which chronicles how USA Wrestling came into being and gained the privilege of serving as the National Governor Body for wrestling.

Holzer's leadership continued through the difficult transition years, as he blended a variety of associations and individuals into a unit of the stature necessary to represent this country on the international scene. Among those participating groups was the U. S. Federation of Wrestling Clubs, which Holzer founded back in 1968.

Holzer served many years on USA Wrestling's Board of Directors, both as an elected member and also as an Honorary Board member. In addition to helping found USA Wrestling, he also helped provide direction for the organization as it grew and developed into a leader within the Olympic family.

He was coach of the first U.S. team to compete in the Tbilisi tournament in the Soviet Union in 1971, starting an international exchange that spanned two decades, and he served as team leader for the 1982 Greco-Roman World Cup, which was the first overseas venture for the new USA Wrestling.

Holzer was an All-American, finishing third at the NCAA Championships in 1957, and a two-time Big Ten champion at the University of Illinois, finishing his career with a 71-7 record. He was a national freestyle champion in 1966 and a six-time All-American for the Mayor Daley Youth Foundation.

He placed fourth in freestyle at the 1966 World Championships and finished sixth in Greco-Roman at the 1968 Olympics, making him one of the few Americans to compete internationally in both styles.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum
America's shrine to the sport of wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1976 to honor the sport of wrestling, preserve its history, recognize extraordinary individual achievements, and inspire future generations. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has museums in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Waterloo, Iowa. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, location reopened in June 2016 following a $3.8 million renovation and now features interactive exhibits and electronic kiosks, as well as the opportunity to watch NCAA Championship matches from the 1930s to present day. It also has the John T. Vaughan Hall of Honors where the greatest names in wrestling are recognized, including iconic granite plaques presented to Distinguished Members since the Hall of Fame opened in 1976. The museum has the largest collection of wrestling artifacts and memorabilia in the world, including the most collegiate and Olympic wrestling uniforms. Wrestling truly is for everyone and the diversity and accessibility of the sport continues to be highlighted through exhibits featuring females, African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans. There is also a library featuring historical documents, including NCAA guides and results, as well as books on the sport.

For more information about the Hall of Fame, please visit


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