ISU's African-American Grapplers Honored
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State's diverse legacy of All-American, NCAA champion and Olympic achievement will be highlighted by a display this week as the National Wrestling Hall of Fame celebrates the 50th anniversary of African-American NCAA champions. Since 1957, there have been eight African-Americans with ISU ties to claim a NCAA crown or earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Twenty-one Iowa State African-American wrestlers have earned All-American honors at Iowa State.
"Iowa State's history of recruiting and retaining African-American wrestlers stands as a national standard for all NCAA Division I schools across the country," said former Iowa State head coach Bobby Douglas.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Okla., will extend its hours of operation during the Big 12 Wrestling Championship as Oklahoma State plays host to the event Saturday. The museum will be open from 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday and 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., the day of the championship. Appointment only visits will be allowed on Sunday.
"There have been 45 NCAA champions and 34 Olympians (overall) since 1957," Executive Director Lee Roy Smith said. "Wrestling is a leader among NCAA and Olympic individual sports with a very successful record of minority champions. This exhibit, with its accompanying booklet, profiles the timeline of black wrestling achievements and features biographies on all black Division I NCAA champions, Olympians and Hall of Fame members."
Those with ties back to Iowa State wrestling include: NCAA champions Carl Adams, Nate Carr, Joe Heskett, Veryl Long, Jason Smith and Mike Van Arsdale. Douglas coached the 1992 Barcelona Olympics freestyle team that included former ISU grappler and gold medalist Kevin Jackson. In total, the featured Iowa Staters have nine NCAA championships and 11 Olympic appearances. Jackson is considered one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers in U.S. history, winning a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain at 180.5 pounds, and claiming World Championship gold medals in both 1991 and 1995. Jackson is one of only five U.S. wrestlers to claim three career World-level titles. Today, Jackson is the head U.S. freestyle coach.
Former ISU two-time NCAA champion Carl Adams underscores Iowa State's commitment to diversity and excellence.
"I think it shows that Iowa State has done a tremendous job in recruiting African-Americans," Adams said. "ISU recruits kids that are the best for the program rather than based on their skin tone."
Adams has been a successful head coach at Boston University the past 24 seasons.
Douglas (1993-2006) owns a place in the exhibit as both an athlete and as a coach.
"I think it is quite significant (that ISU has produced 21 African-American NCAA All-Americans) because Iowa State is a leader in recruiting African-American wrestlers," Douglas said. "If you look at the numbers, they tell the story. This conference, as it has grown from the Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12 is out in front recruiting minorities."
To date, the Big 12 Conference has produced 23 individual African-American NCAA champions making the exhibit exceptionally unique to visitors during the 2008 league championship. Douglas said that legendary wrestling coach Dr. Harold Nichols was instrumental in opening the doors to African-American wrestlers during his tenure at Iowa State (1954-85) and his initial recruiting efforts are still seen to this day in the number of African-American men that have been recruited by the Cyclones.
One of those featured is four-time All-American and 2002 NCAA 165-pound champion Joe Heskett. He ranks third on ISU's all-time win list with 143 victories.
"I take great pride in knowing that (Joe) Heskett is among the men honored in this display," Douglas said. "He was a class act in his time at Iowa State as a student-athlete and he has gone on to be a class act. As an African-American, it shows the durability of Dr. Harold Nichols' tradition of diversity in the ISU wrestling program."
Both Adams and Douglas echo the importance of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum showcasing these men and their accomplishments on the mat throughout their wrestling career.
"I think it's important to showcase these men because of the contributions that African-Americans have given the sport of wrestling," Adams said. "It really hasn't been that long since African-Americans have been able to compete in wrestling at a collegiate level. It shows how far we have come as country and in sports, as we are able to be integrated into mainstream society."
Not only is the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum honoring African-American grapplers at its museum in Stillwater, Okla., but during the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Mo., there will be a recognition and autograph session on March 20.
"Recognizing these men shows a new movement of diversity and inclusion and wrestling is a fine place to start," Douglas said. "Especially with the Big 12 Championship and NCAA Championships coming up. Iowa State has a lot to be proud of in its recruiting process and not only in wrestling. Our football stadium (Jack Trice Stadium) is the only named in memory of an African-American. That shows that minorities play a role in Cyclone athletics. I think this display at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum helps to recruit minorities to our sport by showcasing these men and their accomplishments."
|Iowa State's African-American All-Americans|
|Carl Adams||Two-time NCAA champion (1971-72), three-time All-American 1969, 1971, 1972|
|Nate Carr||1988 Olympic Bronze medalist (1988); three-time NCAA champion (1981-83)|
|Virgil Carr||Two-time All-American (1961, 1963)|
|Stewart Carter||1987 NCAA champion|
|Wayne Cole||NCAA Finalist; two-time All-American (1982-83)|
|Murray Crews||1983 All-American|
|Charles Gadson||1978 All-American|
|Willie Gadson||Two-time All-American (1975-76)|
|Ernie Gillium||NCAA Finalist; two-time All-American (1965-66)|
|Earl Harrison||1993 All-American|
|Joe Heskett||2002 NCAA champion; four-time All-American (1999-2002)|
|Dwight Hinson||NCAA Finalist; four-time All-American (1995-98)|
|Kevin Jackson||1992 Olympic Gold medalist; 1987 NCAA Finalist|
|Torrae Jackson||Two-time All-American (1992-93)|
|Veryl Long||1965 NCAA champion; three-time All-American (1963-65)|
|Gary McCall||Three-time All-American (1988-90)|
|Phil Parker||NCAA Finalist; three-time All-American (1970-72)|
|Jason Smith||Two-time NCAA champion (1969-70); three-time All-American (1968-70)|
|Zach Thompson||NCAA Finalist; two-time All-American (1999-2000)|
|Mike Van Arsdale||1988 NCAA champion; three-time All-American (1985-86, 1988)|
|Eli Watkins||1957 All-American|