By John Gillis
The highest level of recognition that can be achieved by anyone involved with high school athletics or performing arts activities is induction into the National Federation of State High School Associations’ National High School Hall of Fame. Its exclusive list of members is a veritable “Who’s Who” of the all-time greatest individuals at the prep level.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the National High School Hall of Fame includes an even dozen amazing wrestling coaches who distinguished themselves at the national level.
Those 12 men and their respective years of induction are Charles Farina (1987), Bill Martin (1987), Bob Siddens (1988), Keith Williams (1997), Arthur Weiss (1991), Joe Cesari (1992), William “Red” Schmidt (1993), John Moore (1993), Cash Stone (1997), Lewie Benitz (2007), Richard Magarian (2010) and Larry Shaw (2011).
Farina and Martin were the first wrestling coaches to join the Hall as they both were inducted in 1987.
Farina, who hailed from the Land of Lincoln, coached from 1955 to 1993 at Chicago (Illinois) Gordon Tech High School and Franklin Park (Illinois) Leyden High School. His career record of 644-99-7 works out to a very impressive winning percentage of .863. A former high school and college champion wrestler himself, Farina retired as the nation’s winningest high school wrestling coach, and he currently ranks 15th all time. In 1975, he was chosen national wrestling coach of the year by the National High School Coaches Association and was selected Illinois wrestling coach of the year three times.
From 1948 to his retirement in 1971, Martin’s wrestling teams at Norfolk (Virginia) Granby High School amassed a dual-meet record of 259-9-4, an incredible winning percentage of .960. Martin’s Granby teams won the Virginia High School League Class AAA state championships an amazing 21 times and finished second on another occasion. Martin coached 109 individual state champions, including nine future NCAA champions and one Olympian.
In the following year (1988), Bob Siddens of Waterloo (Iowa) West High School was inducted. From 1950 to 1977, Siddens compiled a record of 327-26-3, which works out to a winning percentage of .921. Siddens coached teams to 11 Iowa High School Athletic Association state team championships and to seven runner-up finishes, and he coached 51 individual state champions. In 1974, Siddens was chosen national wrestling coach of the year. One of Siddens’ top wrestlers was Dan Gable, who won the men’s gold medal in the freestyle lightweight/68 kg weight class at the 1972 Summer Olympics and was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in 1984.
In 1997, Keith Williams of Blackfoot (Idaho) Snake River High School joined the Hall of Fame. During his career at Snake River (1956-89), Williams posted a win-loss record of 403-68-6 (.851 winning percentage). Along the way, he led the program to 17 district championships, including 12 consecutive from 1978 to 1989. In addition, Snake River won six Idaho High School Activities Association state titles under Williams’ direction, including three consecutive from 1982 to 1984. In 1982, Williams was named national high school wrestling coach of the year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
Despite never participating in the sport, 1991 inductee Arthur Weiss enjoyed great coaching success at Clearfield (Pennsylvania) Area High School with a record of 184-37-3 (.860 winning percentage). Weiss’ teams registered 14 undefeated seasons, won the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) District 6-9 tournament every year except two, and claimed the unofficial state titles nine times as awarded by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Round-up.
A year later (1992) fellow Keystone State coach Joe Cesari joined Weiss in the Hall of Fame. From 1952 to 1989, Cesari led three different teams (Cuba [New York] Central High School; Ashland [Pennsylvania] High School; and Ashland [Pennsylvania] North Schuylkill High School) to a cumulative record of 351-31-2, which works out to a winning percentage of .918. Eight times during his 27-year career, Cesari’s teams completed undefeated seasons. Along the way, his teams won 19 league championships, eight district championships, five regional titles, and one PIAA state championship in 1983, when he was named national coach of the year.
The following year, two coaches from the St. Louis metropolitan area joined this elite fraternity as William “Red” Schmitt of Illinois and John Moore of Missouri were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
During his career, Schmitt coached the Alton Western Military Academy and the Granite City South High School wrestling programs to a 602-71-5 record (.891 winning percentage). Despite the fact that he retired 28 seasons ago, Schmidt has withstood the test of time as he still ranks 18th on the all-time victory list. The majority of Schmitt’s career (1951-85) came at Granite City South, where he won a state title in 1965. He was named national coach of the year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 1977, and was inducted into the Greater St. Louis Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
In the adjacent state to the west across the Mississippi River, Moore coached the St. Louis Ritenour High School wrestling program to a remarkable 14 consecutive Missouri State High School Activities Association state championships from 1948 to 1961. Along the way, he produced 56 individual state champions and coached many successful football teams as well. In 1983, Ritenour Stadium was named John Moore Stadium in his honor. Moore completed his wrestling coaching career with a 191-53-4 record.
The final wrestling coach to be inducted in the 20th century was Cash Stone in 1997 ‑ the same year he retired. Stone spent his entire career (1959-97) at Mead High School in Spokane, Washington, where he led the program to a 440-150-6 win-loss record and to five appearances in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state tournament. Under Stone’s tutelage, nine Mead wrestlers won individual state titles, while 43 others finished in the top six in the state in their respective weight classes. In addition, Cash established the junior wrestling program in Spokane, and ran a Spokane-area wrestling camp for 30 years that inspired hundreds of youngsters to take up wrestling.
Although a full decade passed until the next wrestling coach was inducted, it was well worth the wait as Lewie Benitz of Wisconsin Rapids (Wisconsin) Lincoln High School brought with him a remarkable resume that would be the envy of any coach.
From 1965 to 2008, Benitz led the Lincoln program to a remarkable 712-90-2 record (.909 winning percentage) and to 18 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state championships. Benitz’ victory total still ranks eighth all time. Nine of Benitz’ teams posted undefeated seasons on the way to claiming 31 regional titles, 29 sectional championships and 31 Wisconsin Valley Conference titles. For seven consecutive years, his teams were ranked in the top 25 nationally.
Three years later, the Ocean State of Rhode Island had its first wrestling coach inducted when Richard Magarian joined the ranks.
As head coach from 1962 to 1996, Magarian coached the Coventry High School wrestling program to a 239-26 record (.902 winning percentage) and to 11 Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) state championships. In addition, Magarian was part of eight other state championship teams. Overall, during his tenure at the school, Coventry won 19 state titles and 22 league championships. During the 1980s, Coventry High School was voted “Team of the Decade” by USA Wrestling. Magarian directed the RIIL state wrestling championships from 1972 until his retirement in 2011. He has been inducted into the Rhode Island Wrestling Hall of Fame, the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame and the RIIL Hall of Fame.
The most recent individual to have been inducted was Larry Shaw in 2011. Shaw retired that same year after 31 successful seasons at New Cumberland (West Virginia) Oak Glen High School. Shaw led his teams to 13 consecutive West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission AA/A state wrestling championships from 1997 to 2009, which is tied for fifth all time nationally. He coached 51 individual state champions and finished with a career dual-meet record of 330-96-4. Shaw was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association West Virginia Coach of the Year numerous times and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010.
John Gillis is the associate director of publications and communications of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at email@example.com