Minnesota Chapter of The National Wrestling Hall of Fame inducts seven

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored seven individuals at The Minnesota Chapter Banquet in Austin, Minn. on Saturday, April 20th, 2013.

The Class of 2013 includes Larry Zilverberg, Ron Ackerman, Scot Davis, Dee Gause, Mike Niemczyk, Leo Simon, and Mike Tatone.

Front Row (L-R): Ron Ackerman, Dee Gause, and Paul Tatone (Representing Mike Tatone). Back Row (L-R): Mike Niemczyk, Leo Simon, Larry Zilverberg, and Scot Davis.
Front Row (L-R): Ron Ackerman, Dee Gause, and Paul Tatone (Representing Mike Tatone). Back Row (L-R): Mike Niemczyk, Leo Simon, Larry Zilverberg, and Scot Davis. Photo courtesy of Spencer Yohe.

LARRY ZILVERBERG – Outstanding American

One of the great names in the history of Minnesota Gopher Wrestling is that of Larry Zilverberg. This three-time All-American also helped coach the Gophers to one of their best seasons under former head coach Wally Johnson. Not only did he excel as a wrestler, but in the business world as well.

The Zilverberg name was well known in the 1970’s in the state of Minnesota. Brothers Pat, Larry and Dan were part of some great high school teams in Hopkins, Minnesota. Larry was a two-time State Champion for Hopkins High School in 1970 and 1971. He went on to wrestle first at Iowa state University, then the University of Minnesota, where he became a three-time NCAA All-American, three-time Midlands Champion, three-time Big Ten champion and later an alternate for the 1976 United States Olympic Team.

Older brother, Patrick, says, “Plagued by injuries, he (Larry) has been called one of the greatest wrestlers to never win a national title, defeating such all-time greats as World Champion Stan Diedzic (a multiple NCAA National Champion), Wade Schalles (NCAA Champion and greatest pinner of all-time!), and many others. However, never did he offer excuses or lay blame if he fell short of his goals.”

Amateur Wrestling News series of articles on All-Modern Era Division I College Teams article by Scot Davis on “Minnesota’s All Modern Era Mat Team (1975 to 2001),” dated Sept. 6, 2002 reads:

“If not for nagging injuries his junior and senior years, Larry Zilverberg might well stake claim to being the Gophers all-time greatest. He still ranks as one of the best though. The Hopkins, Minnesota native went to Iowa State out of high school, but transferred to Minnesota for his sophomore year. He had immediate success. He won the Big Ten Title and made it to the NCAA finals where he lost possibly one of the most controversial matches in NCAA finals history to Rod Kilgore of Oklahoma. A broken hand his junior year and a torn up knee as a senior severely limited him. Even so, Zilverberg went on to win three Midlands titles, three Big Ten titles and three All-American honors, placing second in 1974, third in 1975 and sixth in 1976. His 82-4-1 record for a .948 win percentage ranks him second all-time (as of 2002).”

After graduating in 1976, Zilverberg stayed on as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota under Head Coach Wally Johnson. In three years Larry did most of the coaching and recruiting. His first year as a Minnesota assistant coach the Gophers placed second in the Big Ten Conference and placed fourth at the NCAA national tournament, a school record at the time.

The next year the Gophers had some great success in dual meets, beating Purdue 51-0 (school record) and Michigan (43-3). The Gophers also dominated all other teams except Iowa. In Zilverberg’s coaching span the Gophers qualified nine wrestlers from the Big Ten Conference to the NCAA Tournament. Former University of Minnesota Athletic Director Paul Giel even committed to giving Larry the head wrestling coaching position upon the retirement of Gopher Coach wally Johnson.

With seven years remaining before Coach Johnson planned to retire, Larry felt the wait was too long and decided to pursue a career in business. That decision brought Larry great success and wealth, probably far beyond what he could have perceived coaching wrestling, certainly on the financial part.

Zilverberg entered the agricultural commodities business. After working for another firm for about five years, two other people and Larry started North Central Companies in 1984. Zilverberg is now sole owner of North Central Companies which currently does about $140,000,000 per year in sales. He is also the co-founder of Chem Sol, LLC., which has made ”America’s Fasted Growing Companies,” all doing well today.

When asked, Larry always tells people, “The two things in life I know the best are amateur wrestling and the commodities business. These are two things that I am passionate about. I live by the belief that a person must pick the things they are passionate about and pursue those passions to the highest level possible.”

Some of the many honors Zilverberg has received over the years include being named to the Dave Bartlema-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame; The Midlands Wrestling Hall of Fame; The University of Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame; Member of the “All 60-Year Minnesota High School Wrestling Dream Team;” The University of Minnesota All-Modern Era Wrestling Dream Team; And, the Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Zilverberg family includes Larry, Susan (wife), and two sons, Johnathon and Jackson. Larry says, “While my “passions” have given me a lot of satisfaction over the years, nothing compares to my good fortune with my immediate family and the family I grew up with. I believe that no one achieves any level of success without the help and mentoring of others. I was fortunate to come3 from a family that definitely helped me find my path. I was also fortunate to have some very good coaching along the way.

Larry Zilverberg is a great representative for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame 2013 recipient of “Outstanding American.”

RON ACKERMAN – Lifetime Service Honoree

This Pipestone, Minnesota native and former wrestler has become probably Minnesota’s most highly recognized wrestling official. Not only do his quality skills as an official come to mind, but his many contributions to the sport of wrestling make him a wellknown figure in wrestling circles around the state of Minnesota.

Ackerman graduated from Pipestone High School in 1964, having wrestled under Coach Dick Rohrer. Ron was a three-time state tournament wrestler and two-time state placewinner, taking second in 1962 and fourth in 1963 in the tough ”One Class” state tournament.

From Pipestone, Ackerman headed to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. At Gustavus Ron werestled four years under the coaching of Ade Sponberg from 1964 to 1968. He was Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Champion in 1965 at 123 pounds. In capturing that title Ackerman helped the “Gusties” team win their first MIAC Conference wrestling title. The Gusties also went on to capture two more team titles in 1966 and 1967. Those were the only three conference wrestling titles in the college’s history. Ron’s overall record was a most impressive 53-16 over four years.

After an accomplished competitive wrestling career Ron pursued officiating to stay involved in the sport he loved. He has been a registered official for some 46 years. Ron gained great respect from his fellow officials, as well as wrestling coaches around the state. He was selected to officiate in 17 Minnesota State Wrestling Tournaments. He also has officiated in the Junior College State Tournament, MIAC Conference Championships and the NCAA-II national tournament.

Respected through the years, Ron eventually took on a leadership role in officiating, helping to train younger officials and improve the pool of officials in the state. He served as President of the Metro Wrestling Officials, as a ten year member from 1970 to 1980. He was also one of 14 officials to form the Gold Country Wrestling Officials in 1980. He is currently assignment secretary for Gold Country Wrestling Officialsd. Which he has been doing the past 33 years. This organization is the largest association in Minnesota, with some 70 members. Ron also developed a new officials training and mentoring program. He also developed a web site for Gold Country and he has been a Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) clinician for 22 years. He also serves as Supervisor of Officials for the MSHSL State Tournament the pastr22 years, increasing the number from 12 to 36. He also served two years as a member of the MSHSL Officials Advisory Board, developing the Wrestling Officials Evaluation Board. He started the Minnesota Wrestling Officials Clinic in 1993.

Ackerman has written a column the past 18 years for The Guillotine, entitled “Officially Speaking.” In addition, Ackerman has officiated in the European Wrestling Championships for the Department of Defense and is a member of the National Association of Sports Officials.

Among Ackerman’s many honors are a member of the Pipestone Wrestling Hall of Fame (1985); Pipestone Athletic Hall of Fame (2004); Dave Bartelma-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame; Distinguished Service Award by the Minnesota State High School League, and he is part of the nominating committee for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Ron has also donated much time to such service organizations as the Fridley Youth Sports Association (21976-1990); member of the Fridley Lions for 24 years and was recipient numerous awards; Board member for the Fridley 49ers Community Celebration and served as head for the Minnesota Gophers Wrestling Booster Club for three years.

Ron is an active member of the St. Philips Lutheran Church and he has been married 46 years to his high school sweetheart, Karla Brockberg. The Ackerman’s have three children in Grant (wife Karen), Greg and Gina (husband Mike). They have lived in Fridley for the past 37 years.

“Officially speaking,” Ron Ackerman is a legend of our sport in the State of Minnesota. He has gone way beyond the norm to benefit thousands of people involved in the great sport of wrestling.

SCOT DAVIS – Lifetime Service Honoree

A coach who promoted the sport of wrestling like no other is Scot Davis. That promotion helped produce many successful teams (State Champions in 1998- ranked #8 in USA, and 2005- ranked #6 in USA) and ten teams ranked in “Top 25” in the USA. He coached 12 State Tournament teams and 15 Conference Championship Teams.

In 2010, Rob Sherrill-WIN Magazine wrote in his column the “Top 10” Hotbeds of Wrestling in the United States.” At #8, Sherrill said: “The clear winner of the one-town, one-team hotbed sweepstakes, Owatonna’s inclusion on this list is a tribute to Owatonna High School coach Scot Davis, the undisputed leader in program promotion.”

Great promotion and a philosophy of participation and asking people to help with the program, Davis never had a losing season as a coach in his 40 plus year career. He turned some losing programs into winners in a short time. From junior high coaching in Bloomington and Burnsville (while still attending college in the early 1970’s), to Turtle Mountain Community High School in Belcourt (ND) in 1976-77, to Bird Island-Lake Lillian (MN) 1977-78 to 1978-79, Hutchinson (MN)1979-80 to 1984-85, University of Wisconsin-Superior (WI) 1985-86, to 25 years at Owatonna High School (MN) 1986-87 to 2010-11, and now at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana. The accumulation of records have given Davis a career coaching record unmatched in amateur wrestling history, with over a thousand dual meet victories.

Davis was awarded National High School Wrestling “Coach of the Year” in 1998 by the National High School Coaches Association. In 2007 he received another “National Wrestling Coach of the Year” honor from Wrestling USA Magazine. He was runnerup for that same honor in 2006. In 2009 he was named “USA Dream Team Coach” for the 13th annual Dream Team Classic held in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Also in 2009, Wrestling USA Magazine awarded him their “Master of Wrestling” Award. As a college coach, Davis was named one of the “Top Rookie College Coaches in the USA” by Amateur Wrestling News and NCAA News in 1986. He was NAIA-District 14 “Coach of the Year” that season too. He is a member of six Hall of Fames.

On the State and Regional level, Davis received 2004 Minnesota “Man of the Year” by Wrestling USA Magazine; 2005 Minnesota (Class AAA) “Coach of the Year;” and several District, Region, Section and Conference “Coach of the Year” honors. He was also selected as 1999 Minnesota All-Star Coach for the annual Minnesota vs Wisconsin All-Star HS Wrestling Classic. In 2011 the Owatonna High School Student Council selected him as “Grand Marshall” for their annual Homecoming Parade.

As a promoter, Davis organized and directed two of Minnesota’s largest “open” tournaments in the Hutch Open (1981-85) and the Owatonna Open (1987-2007). He served as Chairman of the 1985 Minnesota vs Iowa HS All-Star Wrestling Classic, and was initiator of the Minnesota vs Wisconsin HS All-Star Wrestling Classic. He served and as President of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association in 1991-92 and MWCA Publicity Director for 8 years (1993-2000). He served on the organizing committee for the 2000 USA Dream Team Classic held at Apple Valley High School. He currently serves as Vice-President and host of the Minnesota Chapter of the NWHOF, since 2004. As a writer, Davis wrote one of the nation’s first columns on nutrition for wrestling with his “Nutrition Insight” column for The Guillotine. That column and other articles he wrote earned him the 1986 Bob Dellinger Award, representing the nation’s “Outstanding Writer of Wrestling.” One of his article assignments was to research and name the All-Modern Era Minnesota Gophers Wrestling Team (1975-2001) for Amateur Wrestling News. Davis has also made a dozen technique DVD’s for Championship Productions which are sold all over the United States.

Former coaching colleague, Larry Hovden, says: “Davis In terms of promotion, is second to none! He always pushed to get people, particularly who contributed to the program, recognized publicly for their contributions.” A number of those people received national awards. One supporter was Scot’s wife, Mary. She received 1999 “National Coaches Wife of the Year” by Wrestling USA Magazine. Others included Keith Stark, Dale Benjamin and Larry Hovden, receiving national awards for writing, broadcasting and coaching respectively. Numerous other people received awards on the state, region and local levels. There were “Honored Guests” at all home meets too. Retired Owatonna HS Principal and former Athletic Director Jim Herzog says, “I do not know of another person who has so thoroughly and deeply dedicated his life to the promotion of a sport…Scot thinks wrestling every day! He is the perfect candidate for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. I can’t imagine one more deserving of this honor!”

Davis graduated from Bloomington-Kennedy High School in 1969. There he played football and was wrestling Team Captain. He attended Normandale Junior College and was on the 1971 State Junior College Wrestling Championship Team. He then attended Augsburg College where he was a 1973 NAIA All-American and Team Captain. He was coached by the late Dick Anderson at Kennedy HS; John Quarrles at Normandale College, and Hall of Fame coaches Mike Good and John Grygelko at Augsburg College.

The Davis family includes Scot’s wife, Mary, and their three adult children in Alyssa (currently working for “UK-Save the Children” in Bangkok, Thailand). Son, Colin, who wrestled for his father and was a 2004 Big 9 All-Conference wrestler and Section One placewinner, living in Owatonna. And, daughter Ashley, recently married to Zach Wilson, and is a nurse at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

DEE GA– USE – Lifetime Service Honoree

When Dee Knutson married Jack Gause sixty one years ago she had never seen a wrestling match, but she was about to embark on a remarkable journey. Minnesota’s first female inductee to the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame certainly earned her honor with many hours devoted to the sport and development of wrestling in the state of Minnesota and around the country.

From 1969 to 1979 Dee worked as Head Pairings Master at hunreds of AAU tournaments all over the United States. Her duties included not only running the tournament pairings, but also putting on clinics to teach others how to do the job. Dee worked every level of wrestling, from Age Group to the senior Division. In 1972 the Gause’s hosted the first Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Age Group tournament ever held in Minnesota, which had a surprising seven hundred plus participants!

In 1979 Dee became the first woman to serve as Head Pairings Master at the Greco Roman World Championships, held in San Diego, California. She may not have won a ‘medal,” but she did get a thank you kiss on the cheek from Alexander Medved, one of the renowned Soviet Union wrestlers of all-time. Medved was working the tournament as an official.

In 1973, Dee organized the USA/AAU National Pairing Master organization. Members came from all over the United States. She also became the first woman in the World to earn a FILA license for “Pairing.”

In addition to working as a Pairing Master, Dee actively worked with her husband Jack to organize a cultural exchange program for Minnesota wrestlers. The first year they took teams to Sweden and Finland. The program continued for several years, giving Minnesota wrestlers an opportunity to travel to other countries.

Dee Gause was an elementary school teacher for thirty six years, as well as a mother to three children, now all adults. She and Jack now enjoy time with a granddaughter when they have the opportunity. Dee also served as a head election judge for eighteen years.

Dee and Jack were also host to hundreds of dinners for wrestling people and functions for many years. Whether it was a year ending party for the high school teams Jack coached, or wrestlers and officials from around the World, their special outdoor oven feasts were always a special highlight for many over the years.

Gause has truly enjoyed the many wonderful people and opportunities that being involved with the sport of wrestling afforded her. She and her husband Jack will always be remembered as key people in the development of wrestling, particularly in the state of Minnesota. The many Freestyle and Greco roman tournaments they ran certainly propelled the level of excellence that Minnesota wrestling has enjoyed over the past forty plus years when the Gause’s got involved!

MIKE NIEMCZYK – Lifetime Service Honoree

One of the great coaches and contributors to the sport of wrestling is longtime Janesville coach Mike Niemczyk. This Forest Lake native and Bemidji State grad coached at Janesville and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (J-W-P) and left a strong legacy in the sport of wrestling in Minnesota.

Raised in Forest Lake, Minnesota, Mike was a three-sport athlete, earning numerous Letter Awards in football, wrestling and track. He was a two-time All-Conference wrestler and 1966 state qualifier. Mike was also a Boys State nominee in 1965.

From high school, Niemczyk went on to wrestle at Bemidji State College where he was an NAIA National Runner-up and All-American. He was also a two-time All-Conference wrestler, placing third his sophomore year. In addition, he served as Team Captain his junior and senior years, wrestling for Hall of Fame Coach, the late Chet Anderson. He earned a B.S. Degree, majoring physical education, health, and driver education, with a minor in geography.

After serving a year as an assistant wrestling coach at Bemidji State in 1970-71, Niemczyk accepted a head wrestling coaching position at Janesville High School (consolidated into Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School in 1991) in the fall of 1971. He began a coaching career there that lasted thirty four years. At Janesville he led five teams to the state tournament, placing seventh in 1982, fourth in 1986, sixth in 1997, and runner-up in 1998; five Region (Section) team titles and four runners-up . Sixteen teams won Gopher Conference titles also. He was honored with Minnesota State Coach of the year awards in 1986 and 1996. While at Janesville / JWP he was an assistant football coach for 27 years, the head baseball coach for 1 year, and assisted at golf for 6 years.

Since retiring in 2005, Mike has kept busy. Starting in 2006 he has served as assistant wrestling coach at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He also served as an Education Liason for the Minnesota National Guard. In addition, he helps at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament with registration and floor management, and coordinates the play by play broadcasting for 45 Grand Stadium T.V.

Niemczyk always gives back to his sport and education. Mike has been Chairman of the Minnesota Cultural Exchange Team from 1974 to 1978; He served as President of the local Janesville education Association in 1978; He was part of the Janesville Education Negotiation Team four times ; Team Leader and Coach for the Cultural exchange Team to Turkey in 1976; He was the first Chairman of the Minnesota verses Iowa High school All-Star Wrestling Classic; He served as President of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association; Section representative from 1995 – 2005; Writer for the “ The Guillotine” news paper, writing “ Southern Slants”, for 14 years; Assisted with and coached Minnesota teams going to National Wrestling Coaches National Tournaments from 2001 – 2007; Committee member for the Dream Team competition held at Apple Valley High School in April of 2000. Served on the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Advisory Committee to the Minnesota State High School League (2005-2010); Member of the selection committee for the Dave Bartelma – Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame (2006 to present) and a member of the selection committee for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, from 2009 to present.

He was inducted into the Bemidji State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Dave Bartelma – Minnesota Wrestling hall of Fame in 1996.

Niemczyk has also been extremely active in the other community organizations. He belonged to the Janesville Area Jaycees (1973 -1987); He directed the summer recreation program in Janesville (1972-1975); a member of the Board of Janesville Area Park and Recreation (1999-2001); Janesville Area Golf Association Board member (1999-2001; Active in the St. Ann’s Catholic Church; Knights of Columbus and the Parish Counsel committee.

In the late 1980’s Niemczyk, along with then Owatonna Coach Scot Davis, organized and directed one of Minnesota’s first traveling wrestling camps with the Minnesota “Wrestling Country Camps.”

Now, even though he is officially retired, Mike continues to give back to his community and student-athletes, coaching at the college level. He is truly one of the most unselfish “workhorses” for the sport of wrestling in the state of Minnesota. Even the initials of his first and last name stand for Minnesota, “M.N.” Mike Niemczyk has contributed much time and effort to the betterment and recognition of the sport of wrestling. He continues to give his time, serving on committees and coaching at Minnesota State-Mankato.

The Niemczyk family includes wife, Rene, an active helper and supporter to wrestling and Mike’s coaching over the years. Son, Mike and his wife Christie live in Lakeville, MN. He was a three sport athlete in high school and wrestled on the 1986 state team, qualifying for state competition his senior year, 1988. He went on to play college baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menominee, Wisconsin. Daughter Jill and her husband, Todd Wagner and their daughter Nadia reside in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Jill also a three sport athlete in high school found time to help with the wrestling program as a statistician and registrar at summer camps. She was a three time All-American gymnast at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Mike and Rene still reside in Janesville and are very much and active part of that community.

LEO SIMON – Lifetime Service Honoree

One of the legends of Minnesota High School Wrestling is Southeastern Minnesota’s Leo Simon. As a coach he shook the Minnesota “Wrestling World” in 1970 when his small town Caledonia High School team won the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament in the old “one class” system. Several of his teams also combined for an incredible 83 dual meet win streak.

Born on “Whisky Hill” in Winona County, his family moved to Fairwater, just 12 miles from St. Charles. Leo got his start in wrestling at St. Charles High School where he compiled a most impressive 112-16-2 overall record and finished as a State Runnerup in the “One Class” tournament. He also played football at St. Charles High School and was a 5-year Letterwinner and a two-year All-State Honorable Mention player. He also lettered five years in the sports of golf and track. He graduated in 1961.

Simon enrolled at Winona State College where he played football and wrestled his Freshman year. His wrestling coach Bob Jones told him it would be best if he didn’t play football his sophomore year and concentrate on wrestling. Coach Bob Gunner replaced Jones. Gunner was an NCAA Runnerup at Michigan State University. Simon credits him as the most knowledgeable wrestling coach he had, with his strong wrestling background. Wrestling against some of the toughest teams in the country like Iowa State, Cornell, Lock Haven, Bloomsburg and Northern Iowa, Simon compiled a 55-17-3 record. He went on to place fifth in the NAIA national tournament, and place fourth in the highly acclaimed Midlands tournament. His two losses there were to two defending NCAA Champions. Simon was a four-year Letterwinner and key member of the 1966 Northern Intercollegiate Conference Championship Team. He ranked sixth on the all-time Winona State Wrestling win percentage.

As good a wrestler as Leo was, coaching is where he made his biggest mark in the sport of wrestling. Leo guided Caledonia teams to 15 District titles, 4 Region titles and 7 runnerup finishes, along with that state championship in 1970. He also coached a State Runnerup team and Consolation Championship team. Simon finished his coaching career with an impressive 205-49-2 dual meet record, and coached teams to an incredible 83 dual meet win streak, which stood as a state record from 1974-2010.

Simon also had the pleasure of coaching his sons Brad and Trever. Brad placed 3rd in State in 1984 and Trevor placed 5th in State in 1985. Brad went on to wrestle for Hall of Fame Coaches Scot Davis at the University of Wisconsin-Superior where he was an All-American in 1986. He entered the national tournament undefeated. Later he wrestled for Coach Neil Ladsten at the University of Minnesota- Duluth where he was again an All-American.

Simon’s coaching career started at Goodhue High School in 1966 where the program was just getting started. Leo said when the next coach, Bill Sutter came in I told him “we have a good program here, don’t screw it up…he didn’t!” Simon’s first year at Goodhue they went 9-3, then 10-2 and the third year 11-1. He moved to Caledonia in 1969.

In 1985 Simon retired from coaching and started officiating and selling cars for a GM Dealership. He also continued teaching. In 1993 Leo retired from teaching. Around 2000 he retired from officiating. Later in 2010 he retired from selling cars and started volunteer coaching at Caledonia High School, where he currently subs and continues coaching.

In 30 years of coaching and officiating Leo Simon left a mark unmatched by most and envied by many. “He will always be remembered for his shrewd judge of character and ability, as well as an accomplished strategist,” says former coaching competitor Bill Schmidt.

Leo’s bride of 50 years is Marion Simon. Who retired as a nurse in 2009. His two sons, Brad and Trever each are married and have sons. Brad and his wife Robin have two, Tanner and Connor. Trevor and his wife Karen, have four boys in Matt, Nick, Taylor and Ty. Brad is currently assistant wrestling coach at St. Charles High School and works at Crenlo in Rochester. Trevor works in the engineering department for General Electric in St. Louis, Missouri.

Leo spends a good share of his time now fishing for trout, salmon, red fish and sea trout. He also hunts coon, deer and wild turkey. In addition, he does rod crafting, fly tying, gardening and landscaping around the house.

Leo Simon will always be remembered as an important figure in the sport of wrestling in Minnesota.

MICHAEL JOHN TATONE – State Medal of Courage

Michael John (Mike) Tatone was born on June 24, 1924 in Mason City, Iowa to Alex Tatone and Marie D’Angelo Tatone, both of whom immigrated to the United States from Italy. Mike was the fifth of eight children.

Mike graduated from Mason City High School (Go Mohawks) in 1943 where he lettered in football, baseball and wrestling as a sophomore, junior and senior. He also served on the student council his junior and senior years. Mike was a member of the 1943 Iowa State championship football team.

After graduation Mike enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a bombardier in the Pacific Theater.

After completion of his service in the Army, Mike attended college under the G.I. Bill at Findlay College (now Findlay University) in Findley, OH. (1946-48).

After his first year at Findlay College, Mike returned to Mason City where he married Wilma McCurry on June 12, 1947 and both moved out to Findlay, OH. While at Findlay College Mike wrestled and played football. In both 1947 and 1948, Mike was a Regional AAU champion and placed second in the National AAU tournament.

In the summer of 1948, Mike and Wilma came to Minneapolis where Mike would complete his education at the University of Minnesota. In 1950, Mike received his B.M.E. (Mechanical Engineering). While at the University, Mike had the opportunity to wrestle under coach Dave Barthelma and with such greats as Vern Gagne, Alan Rice and Leo Nomellini. In 1950 Mike placed second in the Big Ten Tournament at 121 pounds.

After graduation, Mike worked for Minneapolis Moline, Honeywell and Control Data and raised four children. Both of his sons wrestled in high school as did his grandson who is the current co-coach of Minnehaha Academy/DeLaSalle wrestling team. Wilma has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mike died on December 2, 1983 from injuries he received in a motor vehicle accident in October of that year.

Immediately after graduation, Mike began his career as a wrestling official. He refereed high school wrestling matches throughout the twin cities area for over 20 years and was a fixture as a referee at the MSHSL state tournament until he retired in 1973.

In addition to wrestling, football and baseball, Mike loved to hunt and fish.

Past Minnesota Chapter of The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductees

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