NWMA names annual National Wrestling Journalism Award winners

By Gary Abbott | March 16, 2006, 9:47 p.m. (ET)
W.I.N., Blockus, Sachs, Sheehan, Chertow and AmateurWrestlingPhotos.com are honored

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The National Wrestling Media Association, the national professional organization for wrestling journalists, has named the recipients of its Annual Wrestling Journalist Awards. The NWMA has honored the top wrestling journalists in the following categories: Broadcaster of the Year, Print Journalist of the Year, Photographer of the Year, Publicist/SID of the Year, Publication of the Year and Web Page of the Year. Candidates were nominated by the NWMA members.

Wrestling Publication of the Year - W.I.N. Magazine
W.I.N. Magazine was founded in 1994 by Mike Chapman, a nationally-respected wrestling writer and career print journalist and editor. Chapman served as publisher and editor for four years, building the large-format newspaper into a respected and growing wrestling publication. W.I.N. received the NWMA Publication of the Year for 1997. In 1998, Bryan Van Kley purchased W.I.N. Magazine and served as its publisher and editor. As the publication grew, W.I.N. added a full-time editor, with Tim Tushla serving in that capacity for a year. Almost three years ago, Mike Finn was named editor of W.I.N. Magazine. The publication covers all levels of wrestling, from youth and high school levels, through college and international competition. It takes pride in its professionalism and depth of coverage, as well as printing issues immediately after major events. Its prep coverage is extensive, managed by its award-winning High School Editor Rob Sherrill. Regular columnists are Van Kley and Chapman, plus Steve Fraser, Pat and Carol Milkovich, Kyle Klingman, Gary Abbott and Ben Peterson. Outstanding photography comes from Tushla and Ginger Robinson, Other top journalists are also regular contributors. Diana Strickland has been a valuable office manager since 1999. W.I.N. Magazine is published 12 times a year, with an average page count between 80-85 pages, and ranges in size from 70 - 100 pages, depending upon time of the year.

Wrestling Print Journalist of the Year - Gary Blockus, Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.
Blockus has served as a journalist for the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. for 25 years. He attended Wilkes Univ., where his uncle was a wrestling coach, and while there covered wrestling on the radio and for the school paper. He began covering high school wrestling in Pennsylvania in the mid-1980s. He began coverage of college wrestling at the 1988 NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa, where he was a replacement for the college writer, and covered three local wrestlers who won individual titles, Jack Cuvo, Scott Turner and Pat Santoro. Blockus has been involved in all aspects of wrestling coverage in his community, which is considered one of the sport's hotbeds. His high school coverage has included rankings, features and major event coverage. He has regularly covered Lehigh Univ. wrestling, as well as the many local athletes who wrestle in college across the nation. He has also covered international wrestling, including attending the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games, the 2003 World Championships as well as USA World Dual meets held in his region. Blockus has won Keystone State press awards, and was named Media Person of the Year for the Colonial High School League.

Wrestling Photographer of the Year - John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com
Sachs has been involved in photography throughout his life, but became a sports photographer only after his son got involved with wrestling as a youth. His own involvement was previously limited to one year of middle school wrestling. Sachs talked with the coach at Santa Rosa High School, Bill Lyon, about what it took to excel in wrestling, and chose to pursue the same commitment in his photography. He has shot wrestling photographs for over five years, and for four years has posted them on his website, Tech-Fall.com. He covers wrestling at all levels, from youth programs, high school and college competition, through the World and Olympic levels. In recent years, Sachs has photographed most of the major events on the national wrestling schedule. His family is heavily involved in the sport. His wife Anne is a pairing official and assists with the photography, both as an editor and photographer. His son has been a national champion in wrestling for deaf athletes. Sachs is a club director of the Quick Fall WC in California and is active in the Coastal Mountain Wrestling Association. His web page also features photography from taekwondo, judo, cycling, and track and field, but the major focus is on amateur wrestling. Sachs says he continues to be inspired by wrestlers and their coaches, which fuels his passion for photography.

Wrestling SID/Publicist of the Year - Jim Sheehan, Hofstra
Sheehan is Associate Athletic Director for Communications at Hofstra Univ., a Div. I college in the Colonial Athletic Association. In recent years, Hofstra has developed a wrestling program that competes among the Top 20 teams in the nation, and has developed a number of All-Americans. Sheehan has worked in athletic communications at Hofstra for 18 years, and is now its top executive. In his early years, he managed most of the Hofstra sports information duties, including the wrestling program. As the wrestling team has increased its national prominence, Sheehan became the primary contact for the wrestling program three years ago. Sheehan writes the press releases and story summaries for the team, travels with wrestling to major events, and handles the media requests for the program. The coverage for Hofstra wrestling in the competitive New York market has increased during recent years. Prior to joining Hofstra, Sheen worked as assistant commissioner of the Gateway College Athletic Conference, served a year with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, worked as a sports information director at the Univ. of Tampa, and was an assistant commissioner for the Sunshine State Conference. He attended Biscayne College in Florida.

Wrestling Broadcaster of the Year - Ken Chertow, CSTV
Chertow serves as an announcer for wrestling broadcasts on College Sports Television (CSTV), serving as the wrestling analyst for the national cable television network which specializes in coverage of college sports. Last year, Chertow worked on CSTV broadcasts of seven wrestling events and during the 2005-06 season, Chertow was involved in 11 CSTV college wrestling broadcasts. Among the premier events he has covered were the NWCA All-Star Classic, the NWCA National Duals and the Big 10 Championships. Five years ago, began serving as an announcer for Penn State wrestling matches on the Penn State Sports Network (WPSN). A year later, he began announcing the Penn State wrestling shows that aired on Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. Chertow has also been involved in wrestling journalism as a writer. In the mid-1980's he was a regular columnist for Amateur Wrestling News, and his stories have appeared in many wrestling publications including W.I.N. Magazine, USA Wrestler and Wrestling USA. He also writes regularly for the webpage and the newsletter for his wrestling camps. His webpage KenChertow.com receives considerable traffic. He authored the book: "Wrestling: A Commitment to Excellence." Chertow was a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team in freestyle wrestling, and was a World Espoir champion. He was a three-time All-American for Penn State, and was a Junior National double champion as a high school star in West Virginia. Chertow has an extensive coaching career, including stints as an assistant coach on the college level. He now operates the Gold Medal Training System where he has coached young wrestlers all across the nation.

Wrestling Web Page of the Year - AmateurWrestlingPhotos.com
Four years ago, amateur photographer Al Elrefai of Birmingham, Ala., became active in shooting wrestling. Elrefai was a martial arts athlete as a young man in his native Egypt, and was intrigued in photographing and taking videos of sports. Elrefai shot pictures as a fan at wrestling events including the U.S. National Championships, and gave the images to USA Wrestling for publication. Women's wrestler Danielle Hobeika, a web site designer and photographer, suggested that Elrefai post his photos on the internet, and designed AmateurWrestlingPhotos.com. Starting with a few major events, Elrefai and Hobeika started posting hundreds of wrestling pictures for the world to enjoy, and soon AmateurWrestlingPhotos.com covered most of the major wrestling events, including World Championships and national championship events. Elrefai takes pride in shooting sequences of dozens of shots of each match, to communicate visually what happened. He only posts exciting and interesting shots on the website. In recent years, another women's wrestler and photographer, Julieta Okot, has also posted photos from major wrestling events. When possible, stories on the events are also placed on the page, written by Mark Palmer and other writers.

The National Wrestling Media Association is the professional organization for wrestling journalists nationwide, and has served the wrestling community since 1988. The organization represents hundreds of reporters, editors, photographers, broadcasters, webmasters and Sports Information Directors with a shared involvement in wrestling.

Membership in the NWMA costs just $20 a year. The current president of the NWMA is historian Jay Hammond of Florida.