Wrestling Hall of Fame celebrates diversity as new honorees plaques unveiled to kick off Honors Weekend

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | June 01, 2018, 10:59 p.m. (ET)
The 2018 Class of Honorees for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In front row, Kristie Davis, Nancy Schultz Vitangeli, Randy Couture, Michael Martinez, David Carr, Gary Kessel. Back row: Henry Cejudo, Joan Fulp, Alleida Martinez and Stephen Abas. Photo by Larry Slater.

VIDEO PLAYLIST: Hall of Fame Honors Weekend interviews

One of the missions of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is to preserve the history of the sport of wrestling in the United States. This year, the Hall made a bit of history itself with the diversity of the Class of 2018, which attended the Friday night social and participated in the traditional unveiling of plaques ceremony.

Women’s wrestling is the fastest growing segment of the sport in the USA and worldwide, and women were prominently recognized among this year’s honorees.

Kristie Davis, a two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist, is becoming the second woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Nancy Schultz Vitangeli was there for the unveiling of the Order of Merit, given for service to the sport with input by past inductees. Her leadership with USA Wrestling, the Hall of Fame and many other levels of wrestling has made a lasting impact.

In the fifth year of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award, recognizing athletic, academic and community service among high school girl wrestlers, the honor is going to California star Alleida Martinez, a four-time state champion and two-time age-group World medalist.

Another of the Distinguished Members, the late Lee Allen, is being honored for a lifetime of success and leadership in the sport, including his role as a pioneer in the development of women’s wrestling in the United States. He is being represented for his posthumous honor by his wife Joan Fulp, and his daughters who were Women’s National Team members, Sara Fulp-Allen Bahoura and Katherine Fulp-Allen Shai.

“The Hall of Fame has a theme of Wrestling For All. It came from Sport For All, which came from the International Olympic Committee and United World Wrestling. It is a set of values, beliefs and initiatives that we are launching here at the Hall of Fame. It tells our story of diversity and inclusion and the character traits and values that we stand for. What better examples of the values and benefits of our sport than this Class of 2018 which we are about to honor,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith.

The diversity of this group did not end with the representation of women. Distinguished Member and Olympic champion Henry Cejudo, the Mexican-American son of immigrants, was joined by other Hispanic American honorees Alleida Martinez and Medal of Courage winner Michael Martinez. Distinguished Member and Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas also has a diverse cultural heritage.

Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner David Carr of Ohio is the son of Olympic medalist and Distinguished Member Nate Carr, and is the member of the storied Carr family of wrestling. David won five state high school titles and was a Cadet World medalist for Team USA. The Carr wrestling dynasty is part of the rich heritage of African-Americans in our sport.

The Outstanding American, wrestling and MMA legend Randy Couture, is a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having served in the U.S. Army, where his wrestling career was developed. His service later led him to major successes as an athlete, actor and businessman. Couture has created numerous non-profit initiatives supporting military veterans and assisting them in various aspects of their lives.

“This evening, you and the honorees will learn why their careers and lives give meaning to this sacred ground where they will be enshrined. This place was founded by and continues to be sustained by an Army of volunteers and stakeholders from across the country,” said Smith.

The Hall recognized a pair of leaders who have made a major impact on the Hall of Fame and the sport. Special awards were presented to past Hall of Fame Chairman Terry Shockley and Board member Steve Silver. Shockley remains a Board member, while Silver has been voted in as a lifetime Governors Associate.

The emcee for the weekend’s activities, Sandy Stevens, herself an honoree as a 1998 Order of Merit winner, led the guests to each of the exhibit areas where the display for the new inductees were unveiled.

She performed the plaque unveiling, first with the high school honorees David Carr and Alleida Martinez, followed by Meritorious Official Gary Kessel, Order of Merit winner Nancy Schultz Vitangeli, Medal of Courage winner Michael Martinez, and Outstanding American Randy Couture.

The Distinguished Members were each introduced and shown their official Hall of Fame displays, starting with Steven Abas, then the family of Lee Allen, Henry Cejudo and Kristie Davis.

On Saturday morning, a Tribute Breakfast will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the O-Club in Gallagher-Iba Arena, where each inductee will have two people who will speak on their behalf and tell the stories of each of the award winners from a very personal perspective. A Fashion Escape is also scheduled at Elizabeth’s Clothing and Gifts at 1:30 p.m. The weekend concludes on Saturday night, with the 42nd Honors Banquet at 7:00 p.m. at the Ballroom at the OSU Student Union.