Veterans Day tribute to distinguished members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame who served in the military

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Distinguished members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dremiel Byers of the US Army and Greg Gibson of the US Marine Corps in uniform. Photos courtesy of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

On Veterans Day, we’ll be highlighting those who have been inducted as distinguished members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame who served in the United States military. Click on their name and you will visit their Hall of Fame induction biography. We will provide information on their wrestling career and notes for some people on their military service that are included in these bios as they become available. The year listed is the year the individual was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Note: The book “Glory Beyond the Sport: Wrestling and the Military,” which was published by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, was a key resource for this story. Other online sources were also used.

Distinguished Members
Distinguished Members may be a wrestler who has achieved extraordinary success in national and/or international competitions; a coach who has shown great leadership in the profession and who has compiled an exceptional record; or a contributor whose long-term activities have significantly enhanced the development and advancement of the sport.

Le Roy Alitz, US Navy (1992)
Highlight of wrestling: 23 years as a trainer at Army West Point

David B Arndt, US Army Air Corps (1981)
Highlight of the struggle: 3x NCAA champion for Oklahoma State
Military rating: P-38 fighter pilot with 100 combat missions

Lou Banach, US Army (1994)
Wrestling Highlights: 1984 Olympic Freestyle Champion, 2x NCAA Champion for Iowa

Richard W. Barker, US Army (1991)
Wrestling Highlights: Started wrestling at Michigan and Cornell College, coached a number of Olympians

R. Wayne Baughman, US Air Force (1982)
Wrestling Highlights: 3x Olympian, 8x World Team Member, US Air Force Academy Coach, Olympic Coach

Frank Bettucci, US Army (2015)
Wrestling Highlights: NCAA Champion for Cornell, 2x AAU National Champion
Military Note: Member of the 82nd Airborne Division

Peter Blair, US Navy (2009)
Wrestling Highlights: 1956 Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling, 2x NCAA champion
Military Note: Served on submarines and ships, retired as Commanding Officer.

Douglas Blubaugh, US Army (1979)
Wrestling Highlights: 1960 Olympic Freestyle Champion, 1957 NCAA Champion for Oklahoma State

Russell Camilleri, US Air Force (2010)
Wrestling Highlights: 2x Greco-Roman Olympian, competed in both styles at World Championships

Glen Brand, United States Marine Corps (1978)
Wrestling Highlights: 1948 Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Champion, NCAA Champion for Iowa State

Dremiel Byers, US Army (2021)
Wrestling Highlights: 2002 Greco-Roman World Champion, 2009 World Silver Medal, 2007 World Bronze Medal

Tommy Evans, US Air Force (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 1952 Olympic silver medalist, 2x Olympian, 2x NCAA champion for Oklahoma, OU head coach

Greg Gibson, United States Marine Corps (2007)
Wrestling Highlights: 1984 Greco-Roman Olympic Silver Medalist, 2x World Freestyle Wrestling Silver Medalist
Military Note: Retired as Staff Sergeant, served in Gulf War

Tony Gizoni, US Army (2017)
Wrestling Highlights: Two-time NCAA champion for Waynesburg
Military Rating: Served in Korean War, earned Bronze Star

Josiah Henson, US Navy (2006)
Wrestling Highlights: 1952 Olympic Bronze Medalist
Military rating: Navy pilot with over 400 carrier landings

Danny Hodge, US Navy (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 1952 Olympic silver medalist, 3x NCAA champion for Oklahoma, 2x Olympian

Werner Holzer (1993)
Wrestling Highlights: 1968 Olympic Athlete, Mayor Daley Youth Foundation Coach, United States Wrestling Leader

Wallace T. Johnson, U.S. Navy (1985)
Wrestling Highlights: 34 years as a coach at the University of Minnesota, founded Luther College wrestling, leader in wrestling in the United States

Lloyd Keaser, US Marines (1996)
Wrestling Highlights: 1976 Olympics Silver Medalist, 1973 World Champion, 1975 Pan American Games Champion
Military Note: A captain in the Marine Corps, he ranked four times as an expert rifleman and four times as an expert pistol

Clifford Keen, US Navy (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 35 years as head coach at University of Michigan, founded Cliff Keen Athletics products
Military Note: Naval Commander in World War II

William Kerslake, US Naval Reserves (1982)
Wrestling Highlights: 3-Time Olympian, 1959 Pan American Games Champion
Military note: While in the reserves, he was an aerospace engineer with NASA

William Koll, US Army (1977)
Wrestling Highlights: 3x NCAA champion for Northern Iowa, 1948 Olympian, coach at Chicago, Cornell College, UNI and Penn State
Military Note: Combat Engineers in World War II, earning Bronze Star. Landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Gary Kurdelmeier, US Army (2000)
Wrestling Highlights: NCAA Champion for Iowa, 2x NCAA Champion Coach for Iowa, Executive Director of USA Wrestling

Gerald Leeman, US Navy (1977)
Wrestling Highlights: 1948 Olympic Silver Medalist, NCAA Champion for Northern Iowa, Lehigh Coach
Military Note: Served as a Navy Pilot

George Martin, US Navy (1982)
Wrestling Highlights: NCAA Champion for Iowa State, Wisconsin Coach, Wisconsin High School Wrestling Pioneer
Military Rating: Earned Bronze Star as a Naval Officer

Wayne Martin, US Army (2008)
Wrestling Highlights: 3x NCAA champion for Oklahoma,
Military Note: Captain in the United States Army

William P Martin, US Army (1980)
Wrestling Highlights: Won 22 state team titles as a coach at Granby High (Va.), Technical Innovator, ran successful camps

David McCuskey, US Navy (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 1950 NCAA Team Champion as Northern Iowa Coach, Iowa Coach, Olympic Coach
Military Note: Served three years in the Navy V-5 program

Joe C. McDaniel, U.S. Army Air Corps (1979)
Wrestling Highlights: 3x NCAA champion for Oklahoma State, 3x AAU national champion, high school and college coach

Michael Milkovich, US Army (1983)
Wrestling Highlights: 27 years coaching at Maple Heights HS (OH), respected clinician and educator
Military Note: Served in World War II

Allie Morrison, US Navy (1993)
Wrestling Highlights: 1928 Olympic Champion, 3x AAU National Champion, High School Coach
Military Note: Served in World War II

Hugo Otapalik, US Army (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 25 years coaching at Iowa State, 1932 Olympic coach
Military Note: Served in World War I

James Peckham, US Army (2000)
Wrestling Highlights: 1956 Olympian, 1976 Olympic Coach, College Coach at Emerson College and Harvard

Hugh R. Perry, U.S. Navy (1980)
Wrestling Highlights: 3-time NCAA champion for Pitt, 1952 Olympian, 1951 Pan American Games champion
Military Note: Lieutenant Commander of the Naval Dental Corps

Grady Peninger, US Navy (1987)
Wrestling Highlights: 1967 NCAA team champion coach at Michigan State, NCAA runner-up for Oklahoma State, 2x AAU national champion

John Reese, US Navy (1999)
Wrestling Highlights: 42 years coaching at Wilkes College

Alan Rice, US Army (1997)
Wrestling Highlights: 1956 Greco-Roman Olympian, Coach and Founder of Minnesota Wrestling Club, Olympic Coach

Port Robertson, US Army (1977)
Wrestling Highlights: 3x NCAA team champion coach for Oklahoma, 1960 Olympic coach
Military Rating: Earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during the invasion of Normandy in World War II

J Robinson, US Army (2005)
Wrestling Highlights: 2x NCAA Team Champion Coach for Minnesota, 1972 Olympian, Founder of Intensive Camps J Robinson
Military Note: Honor Graduate Airborne and Ranger School, served in Vietnam

Robert Siddens, Army Air Corps (1980)
Wrestling Highlights: 27-year-old trainer at West High in Waterloo, IA, coach of Dan Gable and many stars, respected referee
Military Note: Served in World War II

E. Gray Simons, US Army (1978)
Wrestling Highlights: 2x Olympian, 3x NCAA Champion, 4x NAIA Champion, longtime Div. I coach

Charles Speidel, US Navy (1979)
Wrestling Highlights: 38 years coaching at Penn State, including 1953 NCAA tag team title, founding NWCA
Military Note: Served in the South Pacific during World War II

Dale O. Thomas, U.S. Marines (1980)
Wrestling Highlights: 34 years coaching at Oregon State, Olympian in 1956, captain of Cornell College’s NCAA champion team in 1947
Military Note: Served in the Marine Navy Air Corps

Jack Van Bebber, US Army (1976)
Wrestling Highlights: 1932 Olympic Champion, 3x NCAA Champion for Oklahoma State
Military Note: Served four years in the infantry in WWII, three in the Pacific theater

Richard Voliva, US Army (1984)
Wrestling Highlights: 1936 Olympic silver medalist, NCAA champion for Indiana, 25 years coaching Rutgers
Military Note: Attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel

William Weick, US Army (2007)
Wrestling Highlight: 2x NCAA champion for Northern Iowa, Mount Carmel HS (IL) coach, Olympic coaching staff

To note: Anyone with information about the military career of a distinguished Hall of Famer not on this list today should contact us at [email protected]

Footnote 2: There are many others enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in other categories who have served in the military. These categories include Outstanding American, Order of Merit, Medal of Courage, Meritorious Official, Dave Schultz High School Achievement Award, and Tricia Saunders High School Achievement Award. For more information on these inductees, please visit https://nwhof.org/hall_of_fame


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