The Minnesota Chapter of The National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored seven individuals at its Minnesota Chapter Banquet on April 14th in Owatonna. Here’s a look at the seven honorees.
The late Dr. William O. Manning lived an extraordinary life. Dr. Manning was a military serviceman in the U.S. Air Force. For 34 years, he was a teacher, coach, wrestling official, and administrator. During the next five years, he served on the Wayzata School Board of Education.
Until his passing, Dr. Manning served as a private consulting counselor in chemical abuse, addiction, and parenting. As a counselor, he presented keynote addresses over 25 times. He has also written several publications, including “Harmfully Involved” and Harmfully Involved Update”. His influence on many people’s lives makes him the recipient of the 2007 “Outstanding American” honor.
Dr. Manning was a graduate of Waterloo West High School, received a B.S. from Purdue University, an M.S. from Purdue and ED.D. from the University of South Dakota.
Dr. Manning’s early success came through the sport of wrestling. He wrestled and was a state champion in high school under the legendary Finn Erickson. He went on to wrestle at Purdue University, where he fractured a vertebrate in his third collegiate match.
After graduating, he started his coaching career at Wayzata High School. In only four years, Dr. Manning’s teams won three consecutive Minnesota State High School Championships from 1951 to 1953 and during his fourth year, his squad was state runner-up.
One of Dr. Manning’s most famous wrestlers was Major General Ken Leuer, who earned two NCAA national titles wrestling for the University of Iowa. Major General Leuer is included among the Outstanding American category enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Major General Leuer stated, “Dr. Bill Manning was the most influential person in my life outside of my immediate family. His impact went far beyond the wrestling room and championships. Bill Manning is the person who gave me the self-confidence to succeed in the most difficult challenges in my life and career, and to always act with honor, self-respect, and love for mankind.”
Dr. Manning is survived by his wife of 58 years, Bettie, his children Steve, Linda, Pat (Buck) and Tom.
Joe Russell was left for dead following a motorcycle accident after his junior season of high school. He was well on the way to becoming one of America’s greatest high school wrestlers ever at the time of the accident. With a hole in his head and having lost a third-cup of brain matter, doctors didn’t give Joe a chance to survive. Joe beat the odds and earned a law degree and wrestled at The University of Minnesota, earning the Fraser Dean Most Courageous Wrestler Award and was voted a team Captain his senior season. Joe has been a valuable member of Coach J. Robinson’s coaching staff the past thirteen seasons at The University of Minnesota.
The National Wrestling Hall Of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma will honor five Coaches with a Lifetime Service Award to the Sport of Wrestling:
Ken Bergstedt had an outstanding twenty-eight year coaching career, with the majority of his successes coming at Alexander Ramsey High School where he coached the 1960 Minnesota State High School wrestling champions. His teams recorded fifty-one straight wins. Ken coached three National Hall of Fame Lifetime Service Charter Member honorees in the likes of Don Dravis, Don Meyers, and Ron Malcolm. Ken had a 210-70 career coaching record. He is a member of the Dave Bartelma Minnesota Coaches Wrestling Hall of Fame and coached Minnesota Gopher All-American Jim Axtell, and twelve-time National Champion Jim Tanniehill.
Fran McCann has given forty-one years of service to the sport of wrestling. His collegiate successes were at Winona State, where he led the Warriors to a third Place NAIA National team finish in 1970 that earned him NAIA National Wrestling Coach of The Year honors. His 1970 team was 15-0-1. He coached twenty-five All-Americans, and a pair of NSIC titles. McCann made the move to Indiana State where his team placed 7th at the NCAA Division I Tournament in 1982. He coached America’s (and possibly the World’s) greatest heavyweight ever – Bruce Baumgartner (1982 NCAA I Champion, four-time Olympic Medalist with two Olympic Gold Medals). Fran also coached at Notre Dame University and Penn High School. Indiana currently doesn’t have a Chapter so Minnesota will honor Fran McCann.
Chuck Prunty, regarded as one of the “classiest” wrestling coaches in Minnesota history, has twenty-nine years of service to the sport as a coach. He has helped with the weigh-ins of the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament the past thirty years. Chuck coached at Tracy High School, and his last 26 years were at Austin High School. He retired from coaching in 1990. His Austin Packer wrestlers were ranked in the top 10 in the state for six straight years and number one in 1970!
Chuck coached three individual state champions and thirty all-state wrestlers. Chuck ended up with 282 career coaching wins. He was elected to the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame, Austin High School Hall of Fame, and was selected State Coach of the Year in 1990!
Darrell Sohn coached for thirty-eight years at Fairfax, St. James, and Robbinsdale Cooper and Armstrong. Darrell still serves as a valuable member of the Dave Bartelma Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame. Darrell was one of the founders of that Hall of Fame thirty-seven years ago. He was selected as the Minnesota State Wrestling Coach of The Year in 1970. His teams won two Minnesota State High School wrestling championships in 1965 and 1969. Few have given service to the sport of wrestling like Darrell has. Darrell coached the Lamphere brothers, who went on to become standout wrestlers at the University of Minnesota.
Virg Vagle directed the highly successful Paynesville High School wrestling program for thirty-eight years. His Bulldogs teams won four state titles, and his teams qualified for eighteen Minnesota State High School League tournaments. All eighteen of those teams placed fifth or better. Virg’s 663 Career Varsity wins still ranks fifth in the nation, and third All-Time in Minnesota. He held the lead for better than five seasons. Virg coached ten individual state champions.
Virg was Minnesota State Coach of The Year in 1987. He was elected to The Minnesota State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2006, and coached the USA Wrestling Dream Team Premier All-Star match in Texas in 2005.