Hastert named TheMat com Athlete of the Week

By Gary Abbott | May 19, 2004, 12 a.m. (ET)
TheMat.com Athlete of the Week for May 11-17 is the Honorable J. Dennis Hastert of Yorkville, Ill., the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Hastert is a great example of the saying "once a wrestler, always a wrestler." Although he is one of the most influential and powerful leaders in the nation, Hastert somehow finds time to enjoy wrestling and support the sport that he loves. Hastert is serving as the honorary chairman of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Wrestling, to be held at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind. May 21-23. Hastert is a former wrestler and wrestling coach. Since he changed career from history teacher to politician, Hastert has remained involved in the sport in many ways. He wrestled collegiately at Wheaton College in Illinois. While teaching government and history at Yorkville High School, he was a tremendous wrestling coach, leading his team to a state championship in 1976. His coaching record also included three runners-up and a third place finish. He served on the Illinois High School Association Rules Committee for Wrestling, as president of the U.S. Wrestling Coaches' Congress and two terms as president of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches' Association. He has also been instrumental in helping protect sports opportunity with his efforts to revamp Title IX and "clarify" rules in an attempt to preserve wrestling and other sports from the unintended consequences of Title IX. In 1996, Hastert was honored for his efforts and contributions to wrestling as the recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Order of Merit. He was later selected as an Outstanding American by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Hastert often explains how wrestling helped get him into politics, as a grass-roots wrestling coach who went to Washington D.C. to lobby concerning the Amateur Sports Act legislation. The lessons of discipline and dedication that he learned through wrestling have been a foundation of his success in public service. After 16 years as a teacher, Rep. Hastert was elected to the House of Representatives in 1986. In 1999, he was honored by his colleagues when they elected him to the position of Speaker of the House. He had served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip and had chaired several committees and sub-committees prior to assuming the House leadership. Hastert has attended many major wrestling events in the past, including the World Championships, the NCAA Championships, the Midlands Championships and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Although Hastert has not competed or coached in recent years, he remains a tremendously important and successful member of the national wrestling community. For his leadership within wrestling, and his important public service to our nation, Dennis Hastert is TheMat.com's Wrestler of the Week. Click here to view previous Athletes of the Week