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Hall of Fame marks 43 years by posting 1976 Amateur Wrestling News story


On Sept. 11, 1976, the now-familiar facility to honor the oldest and greatest sport first opened its doors to the public.

On that date 43 years ago, the iconic National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Okla. was officially dedicated and opened to the public for the first time, welcoming its first class of Distinguished Members.

Amateur Wrestling News, the nation's oldest magazine covering the sport, reported on that historic day with an article in its Oct. 9, 1976 issue posted at the official Hall of Fame website this past week.

Here's how AWN opened its coverage of opening day:

"The sport of wrestling has reached a long-awaited milestone with the opening of its hall of fame and museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma."

"Dedication and formal opening of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame were conducted Saturday, September 11, 1976 by the United States Wrestling Federation (now USA Wrestling). The weekend's activities were highlighted by induction of the charter class of 14 Distinguished Members during the first annual Honors Banquet."

Meet the first group of inductees:

  • Dr. Raymond G. Clapp, University of Nebraska coach, 1911-1926
  • Fendley A. Collins, Michigan State coach, 1930-1962
  • Jay T. "Tommy" Evans, early 1950s University of Oklahoma wrestler
  • Edward Clark Gallagher, Oklahoma State University coach between World War I and World War II
  • Art Griffith, Oklahoma State University coach in the 1940s and 50s
  • Dan Hodge, mid 1950s University of Oklahoma wrestling superstar
  • Cliff Keen, University of Michigan coach from 1925-1970
  • David McCuskey, head coach at University of Northern Iowa then University of Iowa, 1930-1972
  • George Mehnert, two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist in men's freestyle, 1904 St. Louis and 1908 London Games
  • Hugo Otopalik, Iowa State University coach, 1920-1953
  • Rex Peery, 1930s Oklahoma State champion wrestler and legendary coach for three decades at the high school and collegiate level, concluding at University of Pittsburgh
  • Myron Roderick, Oklahoma State University wrestler and coach in the 1950s and 60s
  • William "Billy" Sheridan, Lehigh University head coach for 41 years beginning in 1911
  • Jack VanBebber, Oklahoma State University wrestling champion and 1932 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle

    Master of ceremonies for the grand opening festivities: Frank Gifford, "voice" of ABC-TV's coverage of wrestling at the 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal Olympics (as well as a member of the broadcast team for ABC's Monday Night Football telecasts).

    The original National Wrestling Hall of Fame featured 11,000 square feet of display space, at a total construction cost of $550,000, according to the 1976 Amateur Wrestling News article.

    Just over three years ago -- in June 2016 -- the Stillwater Hall of Fame reopened after undergoing a complete renovation and update of its facilities and displays at a cost of $3.8 million. Included in the upgrades: interactive displays and electronic kiosks, along with the opportunity to watch NCAA championship matches from the 1930s to the present day.
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