PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The National Wrestling Media Association, the national professional organization for wrestling journalists, has named the recipients of its Annual Wrestling Journalist Awards. The NWMA has honored the top wrestling journalists in the following categories: Broadcaster of the Year, Print Journalist of the Year, Photographer of the Year, Publicist/SID of the Year, Publication of the Year and Website of the Year. This year, the NWMA will also present a Special Award for an outstanding achievement in wrestling journalism. Candidates were nominated by the NWMA members.
Print Journalist of the Year – Jim Nelson, Waterloo Courier
Nelson is considered one of the most talented reporters covering wrestling in the nation. He has followed wrestling since his youth in Iowa. He attended West Waterloo High School, the same school where Dan Gable wrestled, but he played basketball. His journalism career also began in high school, where he did part-time work for the Waterloo Courier’s sports section. Nelson got a communications degree at Kirkwood CC, then received his undergrad degree from Northern Iowa. His first job was in news at the Spencer Daily Reporter. He served as sports editor at the Hampton Chronicle and Times, where he started his string of 17-straight Iowa State High School Wrestling Championships. Nelson worked two years in sports at the Fort Dodge Messenger, and then has returned home to work for the Waterloo Courier since 1997. Nelson covers every level of wrestling. Northeast Iowa has a strong wrestling tradition, with many of the state’s top high school wrestling teams in his coverage area. He provides college coverage for Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Upper Iowa, Wartburg and Luther. He has worked at the last five NCAA Div. I Nationals, and in a number of years, he covered the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III Nationals during the same year.
Broadcaster of the Year – Shane Sparks, Badger State Wrestling
Sparks has been president of Badger State Wrestling.com for four years, a website dedicated to wrestling in Wisconsin. Badger State Wrestling provides extensive video coverage of wrestling in the state, with commentary from Sparks at many events. The website covered over 100 competitions this year. The website has received support and guidance from Jim Keller of JJ Keller and Associates. This year, Sparks also did play-by-play of Wisconsin Badger wrestling webcasts on Inside Badger Sports.com. He provides play-by-play of the Wisconsin state high school championships for WIAA.tv as well as Fox Sports Wisconsin. Sparks is also the play-by-play commentator for the Cheesehead Tournament on Fox Sports. Sparks has announced webcasts for USA Wrestling, which air on TheMat.com. In 2011, he served as host of the NCAA Div. I Selection Show for NCAA.com. He is providing matside commentary as part of the NCAA’s in-arena broadcast team at the Div. I Nationals. He also announced the webcast of the USA Wrestling National Team All-Star Dual. Sparks also a public address announcer for wrestling competitions, and has done matside interviews at the Junior/Cadet Nationals and the World Team Trials. A wrestler from youth through high school, Sparks always wanted to be a broadcaster. He attended the Academy of Radio and TV Film in Arizona. Prior to starting his wrestling business, Sparks was a sports talk show host for many years in the Appleton/Green Bay market.
Publicist/SID of the Year – Amanda Dahl, National Association of Collegiate Athletics
Dahl is completing her second year as the Manager of Sports Information and Media Services for the National Association of Collegiate Athletics (NAIA), working in their national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. Wrestling is one of Dahl’s NAIA assignments, and she has brought new energy and skill to promotion of the sport. She manages the distribution of the NAIA Wrestling Rankings and Wrestler of the Week programs. At the NAIA National Wrestling Championships, she provides excellent press release wraps from each session of the tournament. Her other assignments for the NAIA includes men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer, Div. I women’s basketball, men and women’s golf and baseball. The NAIA Media Services team includes two full-time employees and an intern. Prior to her NAIA assignment, Dahl worked as a media relations assistant for Auburn University during the 2008-09 year, handling cross-country, gymnastics, women’s tennis and football assignments. She was the wrestling contact as a student assistant in Sports Information for Iowa State from 2004-2008. She graduated from Iowa State in 2008. While in college, Dahl served internships for the U.S. Olympic Committee, working with USA Volleyball, as well as with the American Junior Golf Association. A native of Sloan, Iowa, Dahl played softball in high school.
Photographer of the Year – Tony Nordland, The Mat Slap
Nordland has shot wrestling photography for over 30 years, concentrating on the wrestling community on Long Island, N.Y. He wrestled for Amityville High School and Nassau Community College, and followed his passion for the sport into coaching. He spent 10 years as an assistant for the powerful Massapequa High program, then 10 years as a coach on the middle school level for Sachem. He works as a social studies teacher. While coaching, Nordland took pictures of his wrestlers in action, and provided slide shows for the team and at the county banquet. In 1979, along with his brother Jim Nordland, he founded The Mat Slap, which was a print publication covering high school and college wrestling in the region and across the state. In 2002, The Mat Slap switched to a wrestling website. Nordland’s photos not only appear on The Mat Slap, but have been published elsewhere regularly. He has had eight cover photos for Amateur Wrestling News. His photos also appear in the annual publication for the Friends of Long Island Wrestling. In addition to covering the county and the state championships, Nordland has worked at the High School Nationals, the Dapper Dan Classic, the NCAA Div. I Championships and the 2003 World Wrestling Championships in Madison Square Garden. As a former wrestler and coach, Nordland is able to vividly capture the drama and technical aspects of wrestling in his photos.
Website of the Year – Flowrestling.org
For the last five years, Flowrestling has set the standard for internet video coverage of wrestling, providing in-depth coverage of the sport on all levels. Based in Austin, Texas, the website was founded by Martin Floreani, a former wrestler for Cal Poly. The parent company Flocasts specializes in covering many sports, with websites for track, gymnastics, cyclocross and sailing. A majority of Flowrestling’s content is videos, with a focus on providing behind-the-scenes features. Joe Williamson and Mark Bader serve as site heads for Flowrestling. The website covers high school, college, international and youth wrestling. Each year, Flowrestling provides extensive coverage of the Russian National Freestyle Championships, and attends the World Wrestling Championships. This season, Flo introduced Big Live Duals, bringing more than a dozen live broadcasts of college matches from across the nation. Also introduced this year was FloCenter, a weekly broadcast which provides a recap of the previous week, a preview of the week ahead and other interesting features. Contributors provide additional content through their state series programs. In addition, they have developed the Flo Network, which allows individuals to create their own websites using a unique platform. Some of the content from the Flo Network websites is also featured on the Flowrestling. The website has grown in popularity and has been innovative in the content it provides the wrestling community.
Publication of the Year – The Guillotine
The Guillotine covers wrestling in the state of Minnesota. The publication is currently owned by Jeff Beshey. The Guillotine is published nine times a year, and covers youth, high school, college and international wrestling in the state. His brother Mark Beshey and sister Dawn Simonette have been important contributors to the newspaper. Many freelance writers contribute, with exceptional coverage from Brian Jerzak and others. There are also a number of regular columnists. The publication also owns an extensive wrestling website, TheGuillotine.com, which compliments the newspaper. Many of the human interest and stories on teams appear only in the publication. The Guillotine was founded in 1971 by Paul Kruger, and was also owned by Jim Bartels and Pat Schmidt before it was acquired by Jim and Jerry Beshey in 1986. It has been a family-run publication since, with the Beshey children also serving as reporters and photographers. Son Jeff took over operations as owner in 2005. This is the second time that the Guillotine has won this award, which it also won in 1993. In addition, TheGuillotine.com was named NWMA Web Page of the Year in 2004,
Special Award – Craig Sesker, author of Bobby Douglas, Life and Legacy of an American Wrestling Legend
The NWMA presents a special award to Sesker and the new book, Bobby Douglas, Life and Legacy of an American Wrestling Legend, which was named Book of the Year. The book covers the life of Olympic wrestler and coach Bobby Douglas, who was a trailblazer among African-Americans in wrestling. The book is about much more than wrestling, with compelling reporting about an incredible life, a man who overcame tremendous obstacles to become a legend in wrestling.The book has received extensive critical acclaim. Sesker spent seven months doing the research, interviews and writing of the book. Among those who helped support the project was Douglas himself, who provided considerable input. Larry Slater handled organization duties for the project. Support from Sunkist Kids founder Art Martori helped make the project a reality. The book is published by Exit Zero Publishing of Cape May, N.J., under publisher Jack Wright. This is the third NWMA award for Sesker, who was Journalist of the Year in 2000, and served as editor of USA Wrestler, the NWMA Publication of the Year in 2010. Sesker has served as Communications Manager for USA Wrestling for five years. He previously worked as a newspaper journalist for the Omaha World-Herald and Burlington HawkEye. The book costs $19.95 plus shipping and can be ordered at BobbyDouglasBook.com.
The National Wrestling Media Association (NWMA) is the national professional organizations for journalists who cover the sport of amateur wrestling. This includes reporters, editors, publishers, webmasters, photographers, broadcasters, sports information directors and other media professionals who share an interest and involvement in the sport. Dues is $20, which can be sent to the National Wrestling Media Association, 2016 Bittersweet Drive, St. Anne, IL 60964