WEST VIRGINIA MAT THOUGHTS
by Dr. Bill Welker
BOBBY DOUGLAS AND THE LATE JAMES NANCE AMONG AFRICAN-AMERICAN WRESTLERS HONORED FOR THEIR NATIONAL AND OLYMPIC ACHIEVEMENTS
by Dr. Bill Welker
Black Olympians and National Champs the likes of Bobby Douglas, Pennsylvania's James Nance, Jimmy and Nate Carr, and Greg Jones were honored at the NCAA Division I Championships held at St. Louis, Missouri in March.
Over the last 50 years, Black wrestlers have contributed in many diverse ways to promote the sport of wrestling. In fact, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame plans a new exhibit in the Hall to highlight the achievements of Black wrestlers throughout the years. Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, stated:
"On behalf of the Hall of Fame Board of Governors, I want to express our collective excitement for this educational outreach project that celebrates the heritage of African Americans who have contributed so much to the success of our sport both at home and abroad. We believe this exhibit will help inspire young African Americans to follow in the footsteps of these extraordinary individuals who have been successful in both sport and life."
It was half a century ago, in 1957, that Simon Roberts from the University of Iowa claimed the first NCAA Wrestling Championship by a Black athlete at 147 pounds. Since then, 45 other African-American wrestlers have joined him at the top of the podium. Blacks have also won national, world and Olympic wrestling medals and become successful coaches and officials.
Gordie Longshaw, childhood friend of Bobby Douglas, summed it up profoundly:
"I am so pleased that Bobby Douglas and his fellow African-American wrestlers will be honored for their national and international accomplishments.
When I think of the prejudice and bias that Black athletes like Bobby had to endure in their youth, I realize the significance of this tribute to their lives and athletic triumphs.
For Bobby and his Black contemporaries, it can truly be said, 'The struggle is the glory.'"
In sum, Bobby told this author, "This will be a very exciting moment in my life, and for all Black wrestling champs who have worked hard to prove themselves on the mats. I am very pleased that the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma is dedicating a special exhibit to honor the accomplishments of Black athletes and their contributions as competitors, coaches, and officials to the great sport of wrestling."
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