Family is the focus of the first day at National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors Weekend

By Gary Abbott | June 04, 2006, 8:43 a.m. (ET)
Honors Social Photos
Award Banquet Photos

The first day of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors Weekend is all about family.

It is not just the wrestling family coming together from all across the nation to celebrate its greatest legends and to share in the spirit of friendship. It is also about the individual families of the honorees, who travel to Stillwater, Okla. to share in the joy of the achievement of their loved ones.

Honors Weekend begins with a social at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, followed by the unveiling of the plaques and awards within the John T. Vaughan wing of the Hall of Fame and Museum.

Family, friends and dignitaries come together to share in some food, some drink and great conversation. Then comes a short formal program, where each of those honored have their displays presented, and photos are taken with their awards and their families. There are no speeches or formal presentations. Those are all saved for Saturday night at the official banquet.

This year's Hall of Fame Weekend is especially about families.

In the short introduction which kicked off the weekend, Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jim Keen officially dedicated the 30th Honors Weekend to the late John Vaughan, who was a driving force and supporter of the Hall since its inception. Keen made a special presentation to John's wife Helen Vaughan, a touching moment for everybody who love and appreciate the Vaughans for their involvement in the sport.

Each of the four Distinguished Members have a strong family story, in some cases with very impressive Hall of Fame and/or Olympic connections.

To start, Tricia Saunders became the first woman inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Family is the core of the Tricia Saunders story. A member of a wrestling family, the McNaughtons of Ann Arbor, Mich., Tricia grew up in the sport as an athlete and a family member. Later in her life, she married a successful wrestler, Townsend Saunders, and both had amazing international careers. Townsend won a Olympic silver medal for the United States in freestyle, and Tricia won four World titles for the United States in women's freestyle. And Tricia and Townsend now have a family of their own, with three children who were there to enjoy the evenign

The other three Distinguished members all became the second member of their family to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Josiah "Joe" Henson, an Olympic medalist athlete and an Olympic Games referee, joined his older brother Stanley Henson as a Hall of Fame Distinguished Member. Joe and Stanley posed together in front of Josiah's display, then the entire Henson family came together. There was another "family" in attendance, those who are involved in Brute Wrestling, the wrestling equipment company that Josiah founded so many years ago.

Terry Brands also became the second Brands brother inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining twin brother Tom in the hallowed Hall. Both were there to celebrate the moment, along with their wives and children. Those who don't know the Brands well were a bit confused which was Terry and which was Tom, just like when they were both winning World titles, Olympic medals and NCAA titles side by side.

Pat Smith, the first four-time NCAA champion, joined his older brother John, a two-time Olympic champion and four-time World champion, as a Distinguished member. Their oldest brother Lee Roy is the Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and was running the show for the evening. The expanded "Smith family," led by the parents Lee Roy and Madeline, tried to pose in front of Pat's award display, but there really was not enough room for them all to fit.

There was a strong wrestling family support of the other award winners, who were also given an opportunity to see their displays and pose in front of them.

Kentucky Derby winning jockey Pat Day, who is receiving the Outstanding American honors, had friends and family there, but also brought his high school wrestling coach from Eagle, Colo., where he was a state champion. Medal of Courage winner Randy Meyer, who is blind and became an All-American wrestler in college and is now mayor of his hometown in Wisconsin, also had his high school coach there to join his family.

Larry Sciacchetano, the FILA Bureau member and former USA Wrestling president who is receiving the Order of Merit, has one of the largest family delegations, including brothers and children and other family members. Sam Williams, the Lifetime Achievement for Officials winner, was not only joined by his wife, but also a number of other veteran officials who came up the ranks with Sam during his 40 year career as a referee.

Dave Schultz High School Excellence winner David Craig was able to pose in front of the display with his father, who came from Florida with David to celebrate the award named for one of wrestling's greatest legends.

The families have now come together. Saturday at Honors Weekend includes a morning of golf and poker and fun with friends, along with a luncheon of those who are here to celebrate. The evening is the formal banquet, with the award presentations and speeches and formal photo opportunities.