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InterMat Rewind: Wrestling Roadtrip

Mark Palmer

7/10/2008
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

Summer is here! While this time of year is usually thought of as the off-season for wrestling (at least in terms of high school and college), fans can feed their fix by planning a wrestling roadtrip. Across the United States there are a number of wrestling museums, halls of fame and other must-see sites of interest for the sport's participants and supporters.

InterMatWrestle.com has put together a wrestling roadtrip that features a number of top wrestling-related landmarks. We established some ground rules for a facility to make this list. For starters, we realize that there are few facilities devoted exclusively to amateur wrestling, so we've included some multi-sports halls of fame, as long as they have some wrestling content. These displays must cover real wrestling; we're not particularly interested in facilities that emphasize pro rasslin'. What's more, the facilities must be open to the general public. We've avoided listing anything that requires a membership in a private club, or are locked away in a wrestling room not easily accessible to visitors.

Now, let's pack up the car … fasten your seat belt … and get ready for our wrestling roadtrip!

(Note: Before you go, you'll probably want to contact the individual facilities of interest to you, to check on days/hours of operation, admission prices, parking, etc.)

Colorado

In this Olympic year, if you're not able to travel to Beijing, why not consider a trip to Colorado Springs to see the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The Visitor Center -- which welcomes 140,000 guests each year -- is the starting place for free public tours of the training facilities, including the wrestling room, conducted by U.S. Olympic Committee Ambassadors.

U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado. 1-888-659-8687.

Illinois

A number of our Presidents had wrestling backgrounds. Perhaps the most famous grappler-in-chief was Abraham Lincoln. As a young man, the lanky attorney was known for his wrestling prowess … especially in his legendary matches with Jack Armstrong at New Salem, Illinois. You can experience life as Lincoln lived it in the 1830s in a re-creation of this community at Lincoln's New Salem. In past summers, the facility has hosted re-enactments of the Lincoln vs. Armstrong wrestling matches featuring high school students in period costumes. About twenty miles southeast of New Salem is the state capital of Illinois, Springfield, which is chock-full of Lincoln landmarks open to the public, including the outstanding Presidential Library and Museum, as well as his family's home before moving to the White House, and Lincoln's Tomb.

Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, Illinois Route 97, Petersburg, Illinois. (217) 632-4000.

Indiana

Designed by noted architect Michael Graves, the NCAA Hall of Champions in downtown Indianapolis features interactive displays and video presentations from athletes and coaches in all 23 sports under the jurisdiction of the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- including wrestling.

NCAA Hall of Champions, White River State Park, downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.

Iowa

Let's start at the top of this wrestling-crazy state. In the northeast Iowa town of Cresco, just south of the Minnesota border, is the home of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. Located inside the Cresco Chamber of Commerce right downtown, this Hall of Fame honors corn-fed, born-in-Iowa amateur wrestlers and coaches. Among those enshrined are some Cresco hometown heroes: Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Bourlag, iconic Iowa State coach Harold Nichols, and University of Iowa wrestler/coach Gary Kurdelmeier … as well as native sons Simon Roberts, and Bill Koll, three-time NCAA champ for Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) who went on to coach at his alma mater and Penn State. Each inductee is commemorated with a plaque with photos and information on his life and wrestling career.

Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, 101 Second Avenue SW, Cresco, Iowa. (563) 547-3434.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum
About an hour south of Cresco is Waterloo, home to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum … one of the largest, most encompassing facilities of its type in the U.S. Having relocated in January 2007 from Newton, Iowa to Waterloo -- Gable's hometown -- the facility does NOT limit its focus to its namesake, but includes amateur wrestling displays that trace the history of the sport in photos, artwork, and one-of-a-kind collectibles.

In addition, there's the Alan & Gloria Rice Greco Hall of Champions, the Glen Brand Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Dan Gable Teaching Center (a wrestling room for demonstrations and instruction), a research library, a video theater, and a separate section on professional wrestling.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum, 303 Jefferson Street, downtown Waterloo, Iowa. (319) 233-0745.

While you're in the hometown of Dan Gable, why not stop by Waterloo West High School where the 1972 Olympic gold medallist and long-time Iowa Hawkeye coach built a perfect mat career for the Wahawks in the mid-1960s for another coaching legend, Bob Siddens. (Siddens' name graces the gym; Gable's adorns the new wrestling facility). The Wahawk Hall of Fame has been recently updated and expanded to include a bronze statue of Gable. Among the many WWHS wrestlers honored: Jim Harmon, Dale Anderson, Akeem Carter, and Mike VanArsdale. While in the neighborhood … drive by the white-frame house at 2241 Easley (across Baltimore from Waterloo West) where Dan Gable grew up. The house is no longer in the family and is NOT open to the public.

Wahawk Hall of Fame, Waterloo West High School, 425 East Ridgeway (corner of Ridgeway and Baltimore), Waterloo, Iowa. (319) 433-2707.

Hungry? Just down the street from Waterloo West at 360 East Ridgeway is The Other Place. This area landmark, established in 1970, features pizza, sandwiches, salads and other bar-food favorites.

A couple hours southeast of Waterloo is the picturesque town of Mt. Vernon, home of Cornell College. In 1947, their Royal Purple wrestlers won the NCAA team title, becoming the smallest school to ever win the team title, and the only private college to do so. Stop by the Richard and Norma Small Multi-Sport Center (named for a wrestler on that championship team and his wife) to see the NCAA and AAU national trophies, along with photos and plaques on display in the lobby.

Small Multi-Sport Center, Cornell College, 600 First Street West, Mt. Vernon, Iowa. (319) 895-4486.

A half-hour south of Mt Vernon on Iowa Route 1 is Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. On the edge of campus is the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. The facility honors Hawkeye athletes of all sports, including wrestling… with championship trophies and other wrestling memorabilia. While on campus, take a spin past Carver-Hawkeye Arena, also known as The House Gable Built, and home venue for the Hawkeye wrestling program since 1983. In front of Carver-Hawkeye you'll find the bronze statue of Gable, dedicated in 2012.

University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame, 2425 Prairie Meadow Drive (northwest corner of Melrose Avenue and Mormon Trek Blvd,), Iowa City, Iowa. 1-866-IOWA-FAME.

From Iowa City, head west on I-80 to Des Moines, the state capital… to the Iowa Hall of Pride. Located in the HyVee Hall at the Iowa Events Center downtown, this recently-constructed facility sponsored by the Iowa High School Athletic Association honors prep athletes in various sports, including wrestling, which is, arguably, THE sport in the state of Iowa.

Iowa Hall of Pride, HyVee Hall at Iowa Events Center, 330 Park Street, Des Moines, Iowa. (515) 280-8969.

From Des Moines, drive north on I-35 about a half-hour to Ames, the home of Iowa State University. On the eastern edge of the campus is the Lied Recreation Center. Head upstairs to the walkway outside the Cyclone wrestling room to see the Iowa State Wrestling "Wall of Fame" featuring photo-portraits of all-time great Iowa State wrestlers who have won NCAA titles, earned All-American honors, and/or wrestled at the Olympics -- guys like Dan Gable, Cael Sanderson, Joe Heskett, Chris Bono, Chris Taylor, Ben Peterson and dozens more. Also in the eastern portion of the campus, you can drive by Hilton Coliseum, home of the wrestling Cyclones since 1971.

Hungry? Hickory Park has been an Ames institution since 1970. Barbeque, burgers, and giant ice cream sundaes in a fun, old-time atmosphere. 1404 S. Duff Avenue near U.S. 30, Ames. (515) 232-8940.

Michigan

The Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame, located in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center across from Spartan Stadium, has displays honoring some of the all-time great Spartan wrestlers and coaches, including Fendley Collins, Grady Peninger, Burl and Merle Jennings, and Gale Mikles.

Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame, Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, Shaw Lane, East Lansing, Michigan. (517) 355-2271.

At the Cliff Keen Arena at the University of Michigan, there's a display showcasing the long history of Wolverine wrestling. (The arena itself is named for Cliff Keen, head wrestling coach at Michigan from 1926-1970.)

Cliff Keen Arena, University of Michigan, South State and Hoover Streets, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

New York

In upstate New York is Ithaca, home of Cornell University and its Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame. Nearly 500 Big Red athletes, coaches and supporters are honored in the Hall, including wrestlers such as Dave Auble, Frank Bettucci, Don Dickason, and Stephen Friedman, Chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and prior to that, chief economic advisor to President George W. Bush. His name graces the Friedman Wrestling Center, which, according to the Ivy League school, is the only freestanding wrestling facility dedicated exclusively to the sport.

Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame, Friends Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Ohio

Schottenstein Center
Right in the heart of Ohio is Columbus, home to Ohio State University. The Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame inside the lobby of the Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center on campus honors a number of Buckeye wrestlers, including Kevin Randleman, Jim Humphrey and Jude Skove. Also while on campus, check out the wrestling-related display cases inside St John Arena.

Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame, Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

A couple hours up I-71 and I-76 from Columbus is the northeast Ohio community of Kent (just east of Akron). Kent State University honors its great athletes, coaches and supporters with its Varsity "K" Hall of Fame. Located on the second floor of the MACC campus arena, the Hall of Fame has a number of Golden Flash wrestlers on its roster, along with highly-respected, long-time wrestling coaches Joe Begala (an Ohio University alum) and Ron Gray, a two-time NCAA champ at Iowa State.

Varsity "K" Hall of Fame, Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center (MACC), Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

Oklahoma

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum
No amateur wrestling roadtrip would be complete without a pilgrimage to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum in Stillwater. Located on the edge of the Oklahoma State University campus, this facility's museum portion features extensive displays that trace the development of wrestling in the U.S., including wrestling uniforms actually worn by mat superstars… while the hall of fame section presents the stories of individual inductees in words, personal photos and collectibles.

There is also an impressive library with just about any book you could want to read about wrestling (along with a complete collection of Amateur Wrestling News back to the first issue), and a theater for watching vintage wrestling films.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum, 405 West Hall of Fame Avenue, Stillwater, Oklahoma. (405) 377-5243.

Within sight of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is Gallagher-Iba Arena, named in part for groundbreaking Oklahoma State head wrestling coach in the 1920s and 30s Edward Clark Gallagher. This "Madison Square Garden of the Midwest" (as it was called at its opening in 1939) is home to the Cowboy wrestling program… and home for the Oklahoma State University Heritage Hall, which walks visitors through the history of the Stillwater school since 1890, including its rich sports legacy. A number of greats from the Cowboy wrestling program are enshrined in the Hall of Honor, including John Smith, Ed Gallagher, Myron Roderick, Yojiro Uetake-Obata, Kenny Monday, and Jimmy Jackson.

Heritage Hall, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

After all that museum exploring, you've probably worked up an appetite. Eskimo Joe's describes itself as "Stillwater's jumpin' little juke joint." For more than thirty years, visitors have stopped by for burgers, chicken sandwiches and Joe's Famous Cheesefries.

About an hour south of Stillwater on I-35 is Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame & Jim Thorpe Museum is a long-time dream that's now under construction, with an anticipated opening date of late 2008. Among the honorees from the world of wrestling with roots in Oklahoma: John Smith, Dan Hodge, Wayne Wells, Myron Roderick, Port Robertson, Ed Gallagher, Kenny Monday, Art Griffith and Jack VanBebber. (Among early 1900s sports superstar Jim Thorpe's athletic accomplishments: he wrestled!)

Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, 4040 North Lincoln, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

While in the Oklahoma City area, stop by the John Smith Fieldhouse at Del City High School, the place where the Smiths -- Lee Roy, John, Pat and Mark -- learned their mat craft. A life-size statue of John Smith greets you on the outside of the Filedhouse; inside, you'll find photos that capture the essence of wrestling in one of the sport's hotbeds.

John Smith Fieldhouse, Del City High School, 1900 South Sunnylane Road, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (406) 677-5777.

Pennsylvania

Western Pennsylvania has a rich wrestling heritage. For starters, two U.S. Olympic gold medallists -- Bruce Baumgartner and Kurt Angle -- have deep roots in the area. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in Pittsburgh reflects the region's mat traditions that extend from grade school through high school to college and international competition. This museum features treasures from Baumgartner and Angle, as well as displays pertaining to the Dapper Dan Classic, the long-running annual wrestling event which pits the best prep wrestlers from the region against America's top high school mat stars.

Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (412) 454-6000.

Northeast of Pittsburgh is the community of Clearfield, in north-central Pennsylvania. Clearfield High School lays claim to having the most state champs in the state (the 40th was crowned in 2008), two NCAA Division I champs, and one of the most respected prep wrestling coaches anywhere in the country in Art Weiss. The Clearfield County Historical Museum has Coach Weiss' awards and papers available to researchers who want insight into the methods of one of the all-time greats who coaching career spanned the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Clearfield County Historical Museum, 104 East Pine Street, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. (814) 765-6125.

Just east of Clearfield is Penn State. This year, the Nittany Lions wrestling program celebrates its 100th year … and the 55th anniversary of winning the NCAA team title right at home in State College … the only eastern college to win a national team title in the nearly 80 years of NCAA wrestling.

Lorenzo Wrestling Complex
There are three treats in store for wrestling fans who come to Happy Valley. First, at the Nittany Lions' recently upgraded Lorenzo Wrestling Complex at venerable Rec Hall on the PSU campus, there's a Penn State Wrestling Hall of Honor that showcases a century of mat success with photos and memorabilia … with glass windows that let you get a look at the next generation of champions at work in the Joyner Wrestling Room. Next, wander over to the Penn State All-Sports Museum. Located in the southwest corner of Beaver Stadium, this facility honors student-athletes and coaches of all PSU sports … including Nittany Lion wrestlers.

Penn State Wrestling Hall of Honor, Lorenzo Wrestling Complex, Recreation Hall, Penn State University.

Penn State All-Sports Museum, Beaver Stadium, Penn State University. (814) 863-3382.

Last but not least, you'll want to treat yourself to a visit to the Penn State Creamery, home of the college's world-famous ice cream, and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in the heart of the campus. Bigler and Curtin Roads, University Park, Pennsylvania. (814) 865-7535.

Pennsylvania is definitely one of the white-hot centers for amateur wrestling in the U.S. In addition to being home to some of the top high school and college programs in the country, the Keystone state is also home to two companies that wrestlers and fans know very well: Resilite, and Brute.

Resilite has almost become the universal name for foam-core mats, much like Kleenex = tissues. This family-owned business manufactures wrestling mats in Northumberland, in central Pennsylvania, just east of Penn State. While they don't offer plant tours, Resilite will be happy to take your order for a Home Mat in person … or you can order it online or by phone, and pick up while you're on your Wrestling Roadtrip.

Resilite Sports Products, Sunbury, Pennsylvania. 1-800-THE-MATS.

Not only will Pennsylvania provide you with the mat to wrestle on… but also the gear to wear onto the mat. Brute/Adidas welcomes wrestlers and fans who wear their shoes, singlets and headgear to their facility in Sinking Spring, just outside Reading.

Brute/adidas, 8 Corporate Blvd., Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.

Located in northeast Pennsylvania, Lehigh University has long been considered a college-wrestling powerhouse. The Roger S. Penske/Lehigh Athletics Hall of Fame reflects that heritage; over two dozen Mountain Hawk matmen are honored there, legends of every era, including 1936 NCAA heavyweight champ Howell Scobey … two-time national titlewinner (1979, 1983) Darryl Burley … Mike Caruso, Lehigh's only three-time NCAA champ (1965-67) … and brothers Mike and Mark Lieberman … along with revered coaches Billy Sheridan, Gerry Leeman, and Thad Turner.

Roger S. Penske/Lehigh Athletics Hall of Fame, Taylor Gymnasium, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

This concludes our Wrestling Roadtrip. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Have we missed a must-see wrestling landmark? Email your recommendations to Mark@InterMatWrestling.com.

Can't make an actual roadtrip right now? Right now from your computer, you can take a virtual tour with a look inside the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum (Waterloo), the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame (Cresco), the Varsity "K" Hall of Fame at Kent State, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater with photo-albums of these facilities at Vintage Amateur Wrestling Photo Annex 2 Yahoo group: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/VintageAmateurWrestlingPhotoAnnex2/.

Comments

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Diesel67 (1) about 2 years ago
I believe the Sports Museum of New York closed several years ago almost as soon as it opened. Seems they didn't have enough seed money to weather a few lean years until people learned of it. Bummer.