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NWHOF: Former Chairman of Board Jim Keen Passes Away

By Jack Carnefix, National Wrestling Hall of Fame | Nov. 24, 2020, 5:39 p.m. (ET)

STILLWATER, Okla. – Former National Wrestling Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board of Governors and Order of Merit recipient Jim Keen passed away on Tuesday.

He received the Hall of Fame’s Order of Merit award in 2004 and was chairman from 2004-13 after serving as vice chairman from 2000-03. His son Tom, who is president of athletic and apparel company Cliff Keen Athletic (CKA), currently serves on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Governors while his father Cliff, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in the Charter Class of 1976, was a board member from 1982-91. His uncle Paul was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1977.

“We are saddened to hear of the loss of Jim Keen, who worked tirelessly on behalf of our Hall of Fame and the sport that he loved so dearly. On behalf of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Board of Governors and staff, we extend our most sincere sympathies to his widow, Mary, his family and friends,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director, National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “Jim was chairman of our board and hired me as executive director in 2004. He was an exceptional boss and mentor to me, and helped our organization grow in the 21st century. Jim was passionate about wrestling and would constantly share the values a wrestler could gain from the sport, both on and off the mat. Friendship meant the world to Jim and he had many friends in wrestling who are mourning his loss with us.”

Involved in the sport for over 60 years, Jim Keen positively impacted the world of wrestling as a competitor, inventor, CEO of CKA, tournament sponsor, organizational leader and legislative liaison.

While still in high school, Jim and his father explored the creation of protective headgears. From the eventual invention of a headgear, CKA was born. Today the largest manufacturer of wrestling equipment and uniforms, their products are synonymous with wrestling throughout the world.

CKA also sponsors tournaments around the nation. Events such as the Wrestling USA/Cliff Keen Dream Team Classic, Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Annual Beat The Streets Gala in NYC, and CKA Midwest Wrestling Tour to name a few, have provided competitive opportunities for grapplers throughout the United States and have given excellent exposure to the sport.

Constantly available to serve the world of wrestling, Jim was also involved with USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Coaches Association and served on many national committees on behalf of the sport.