West Virginia Wrestling

Twelfth Annual "Hall of Fame Day" Banquet

October 26, 2014
Embassy Suites, Charleston WV

By all accounts, this was the largest attendance yet for this twelfth annual event, with over 200 present to honor the 2014 inductees.

As usual, opening remarks were offered by Wayne Bennett, WV Chapter Treasurer (WV-HOF '08), and the invocation was offered by his wife Diana. Once again, Bill Archer, WV Chapter President (WV-HOF '07) served as the Master of Ceremonies.

Mike Mason was honored this year with the "Outstanding West Virginian" award. As West Virginia wrestling fans know, Mike was a WV State Champ at Williamstown and went on to WVU where, among other accomplishments, he was a two-time NCAA All-American. Mike noted that even though it has been 16 years since he last competed in the sport, not a day goes by that he does not still consider himself a wrestler, and to this day feels most comfortable in a room full of wrestlers. He noted that "everything you need to be successful can be learned in the wrestling room." He also notes that behind every decent man is a great woman, paying tribute to his wife Natalie, and also to his sisters, quipping that 20 years later, they are still stuck in a large room full of wrestlers on a weekend!

Long time Keyser Coach Joe Altobello was accompanied by a large contingent of family and well-wishers. He expressed thanks to his family, his wife Marlene, noting the challenging years of juggling coaching duties, travel, family duties, raising his sons, hosting visiting wrestlers in the basement of his home (up to 30 at a time, some of whom may still be down there)! He passed along a few words of wrestling wisdom picked up through the years: The first period is won by technique. The second period is won by conditioning. The third period is won by heart.

Former coach at Man High School ("Our team bus was a 1970 Chevy Chevelle") and Logan High School, Harold Wayne Bennett found success in several sports as a competitor including football, wrestling, basketball, baseball, and track, and was a scholarship football player at Marshall University in the 1960's. Coach Bennett recalled his days of coaching in the Logan County area noting that the sport of wrestling is unique in that other coaches seem most willing to share information, techniques, and generally exhibit a heightened level of camaraderie. And then there was the story about the other West Virginia wrestling coach named Wayne Bennett (WV-HOF '08) from the environs of Raleigh County. It seems that one year, BOTH Wayne Bennetts were in attendance at the State Tournament, both staying in the same hotel with their teams, one Wayne Bennett with wife in attendance, one Wayne Bennett with wife at home. The "at-home Wayne Bennett wife" called the hotel to speak to her husband, the call went to the wrong Wayne Bennett room, the "present at the tournament Wayne Bennett wife" answered the call in the room informing the caller that Wayne was not available at the present time, ending the phone call. Hmmm, apparently some detailed explanations were quickly needed as per "who was that woman calling for you" and "who was that woman in your room!"

Point Pleasant coach Dave Darst outlined the blueprint for success which Point Pleasant has earned in recent years. Paying tribute to his friend and fellow coach Jack Cullen (WV-HOF "11), Coach Darst recalled he and Coach Cullen studying successful programs in the area and then setting about to establish youth wrestling in Mason County. With the addition of Middle School wrestling, of which Coach Darst was an integral part for many years, the sport has developed to its present status in Mason County. As with all inductees, Coach Darst paid tribute to his family, wife Brenda, son Anthony, and Daughter Alissa, noting that the coaching career path requires a lot of time away from the family.

Well known West Virginia official George Keeney delivered some of the more heartfelt remarks in memory, removing any doubt one might have concerning his passion and love of the sport. Keeney noted that judgement and fair play is integral to officiating, and that one must not only thoroughly understand the rules, but also the reason behind a given rule - the intent. He also recalled advice he received early in his 40 year officiating career that "thick skin" is an asset. Keeney emphasized the need for officials to keep current on the sport, study and learn current technique, and the need for officials to travel - "If you want to be a good official, you have to travel to the best tournaments. You can't stay in one area and get good."

Former Milton and Fairmont State wrestler, and official Mike Kirby followed, echoing George Keeneys remarks, (well, in a manner of speaking), and delivered an address so succinct and to the point that even Coach Archer was left speechless! Another instance of "you had to be there..."

David Riggs, a long time fixture in the Cabell County Middle School scene, lamented that Mike Kirby "took my speech." (Well, again, you had to be there...). Riggs expressed gratitude to the WVSSAC for having opened up professional coaching positions to those qualified from the service personnel ranks. Coach Riggs expressed his appreciation to the Hall of Fame committee for his induction, and also expressed appreciation and respect to those of the ranks of officialdom. Recalling his exhortations to his wrestlers to "squeeze," he recalled having the suggestion made to him from officials that perhaps "squeeze" might be construed as an exhortation to inflict some, er, overly vigorous technique, and perhaps an exhortation to "adjust your grip" might be a better term to use. So, now the secret is out -- when one hears a coach imploring his wrestler to "adjust."

Former WVU Head coach Craig Turnbull expressed his thanks to the HOF committee. Turnbull noted that significant achievements require a certain degree of luck along with the help others at critical times during ones career. "I don't believe you are in control of the cards you are given, but you certainly have responsibility to play them the best you can," noting that the cards he was given were exceptional, citing the support of his parents, his college coach Bob Bubb at Clarion University, and the opportunity presented to him to become the head coach at WVU at age 25.

Turnbull noted that when he arrived at WVU he faced a myriad of challenges including suitable practice facilities, only seven tuition waivers, and no assistant coach. He referred to two "coming of age" moments at WVU. One being a dual meet win at Penn State at a time when the Lions were ranked #4 and riding an 80 match win streak, the first WVU wrestling win over Penn State, and the second being the following year in 1991 when Scott Collins became WVU's first NCAA champion.

Turnbull also noted that one of his goals had been to guide a native West Virginian to an NCAA championship. "We came close three times, but we didn't quite get there" with Elkins native Sam Kline placing 3rd, Williamstown' Mike Mason taking 3rd, and Parkersburg's Brandon Rader who was the first wrestler in WVU history to place at the NCAA tournament as a freshman, but who suffered a competition ending injury.

Turnbull also indicated that he was fortunate to have the help of outstanding assistants along the way, including Bill Bailey, Mark Cagle, Nate Carr, Cary Kolat, Zeke Jones, and Greg Jones. "I've had tremendous help from some outstanding people."

"There is love in a good wrestling program. It is often hidden, and is well disguised, but it is in there."

2014 Hall of Fame inductees:

Seated, L to R: Joe Altobello, David Darst, David Riggs, H. Wayne Bennett
Standing, L to R: Mike Kirby, George Keeney, Mike Mason, Craig Turnbull

A pair of former Nitro head coaches (seated), Pat Vance (L), (WV-HOF '04) and Steve White (R), (WV-HOF '06), with former Huntington High Coach Bill Archer (standing), (WV-HOF '07)

Nearly always on hand from Clay County, Bob Stover (WV-HOF '04) with wife Rozella, and current inductee George Keeney in the middle.

Coach Altobello's family including wife Marlene, son Chris and his wife Mollie and their son Luca, son Jared and his wife Christi. Also brothers John and Jerry Altobello with wife Bev, and cousin Pete Chakiris who is a member of the Ohio Chapter, Hall of Fame, and his wife Barb...

...and other members of the Altobello posse.

Present with their father, L to R daughter Bailey Bennett, son Trey Bennet, Coach H. Wayne Bennett, and son Chad Bennett.

Coach Craig Turnbull and wife Sue.

Mason County out in force to honor Coach Dave Darst.

Mike Kirby (front) with parents well-wishers from Fairmont including Coach Joe Naternicola (WV-HOF '09), Bill Proctor, and Ray and Tonya Robe.

HOF inductee David Riggs (2nd from the left) with friends and family Jim Paxton, wife Lauren, son Justin, Lauren Steadman, daughters Jessica and Jamie, and Shelly Maynor.

Outstanding West Virginian Award winner Mike Mason (2nd from the left) with his High School coach Bob Pickens (WV-HOF '04), Coach at WVU Nate Carr, his father Bill Mason, and brother-in-law Josh Flesher.

HOF inductee George Keeney with friends and family too numerous to count...

Current and former wrestling officials in attendance.

West Virginia State Chapter, National Wrestling Hall of Fame

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