National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter Inducts 8

On Saturday, April 22nd the NWHOF Minnesota Chapter held their 15th annual ceremony and inducted eight distinguished members who have contributed significantly to Minnesota Wrestling. The Awards Ceremony was held at the Holiday Inn Austin, Minn., with over 250 in attendance.

Inducted in 2017 were Outstanding American Dr. Perry Malcolm, Medal of Courage Winner Jerry Byers, and Lifetime Service Honorees Steve Bechtold, Jerry Cleveland, Bill Demaray, Jack Eustice, Eugene Hildebrandt, and Gary Smith.

Krista Graff, the State Chapter Director for the NWHOF Stillwater, attended and presented the plaques to the honorees.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame Minnesota Chapter 2017 Class. Front Row (L-R): Jack Eustice, Eugene Hildebrandt, and Jerry Byers. Back Row (L-R): Gary Smith, Steve Bechtold, Dr. Perry Malcolm, Jerry Cleveland. Bill Demaray was not present.

You can read past National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter member bios at

Photos by Ron Ackerman.


Perry Malcolm was a standout wrestler at Anoka High School and competed at Augsburg College. He earned Doctorate degrees in physics, and medicine. Perry served in the US Air Force from 1984 –1995 and received the AF Research and Development award. He is a Colonel in the Minnesota Army National Guard, where he has served since 1997. Perry was a flight surgeon on four deployments – Bosnia (2003), Iraq (2005), Iraq (2007-2008), and Kuwait (2014-2015). He was a Bronze Star recipient in 2008. Other awards include Meritorious Service Medal (1998, 2005), and he was promoted to Colonel, Medical Corps in 2012. Perry serves as aviation medicine for the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, St. Paul, Minn. He is currently a Staff Physician at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center and provides care to 20+ veterans a day. Perry certainly has been outstanding for his profession and his country.


Jerry lost his right leg above the ankle in a farm hay mowing accident at the age of seven during the summer of 1949. He decided to wrestle as a freshman in high school under Mankato Hall of Fame Coach LuVerne Klar. Jerry led his phy ed class as the fastest rope climber. He only lost two matches as a Sophomore. Jerry was an undefeated two-time state champion as a junior and senior (1959 and 1960). He went on to have a 33-year career as the Supervisor of the Mankato City Transit Department. He received numerous honors from them.


Steve gave back 37 years to the sport of wrestling. He wrestled and played football at St. John’s University and coached at St. John’s Prep during his college days. He served as head wrestling coach at Blackduck High School and was co-head at Cass Lake/Blackduck/Bena High Schools. Steve’s coaching record was 327-263-5. He coached four state tournament dual meet teams, including a third-place team finish. Altogether he coached 64 state individual qualifiers, 34 state place winners, and eight finalists. Steve was a Section Rep for ten years and served on the MSHSL Advisory Board for six years. He was MWCA President and is a member of the MWCA Bartelma Hall of Fame.

Jerry Cleveland has given back to the sport for 42 years as a coach and official. He was a two-time All-American at Itasca Community College and Bemidji State University. Jerry was selected as the OW of the Northern Intercollegiate Conference in 1975. He was a state runner-up for legendary Hall of Fame Coach Don Dravis at Staples, Minn. Jerry’s 26 years as a head coach resulted in four of his teams competing in the Minnesota state dual meet tournament including third and fourth place finishes. Jerry was the 1998 Minnesota Class AA Coach of the Year with Cass Lake/Blackduck/Bena High School. He also coached at Elbow Lake, Cambridge, and had two tours of duty at Cass Lake, and Onida, S.D. Jerry coached 38 state entrants, 14 state place winners in Minnesota; and had nine entrants and three place winners in South Dakota in one year. Jerry also officiated at all levels for 40 Years.

Bill had an outstanding 40-year career in the sport of wrestling. Without a doubt the most successful wrestling coach in the history of the state of Minnesota. He was the architect of the powerful Apple Valley program, where his teams won six state championships. Bill served another 13 years as the top assistant to Jim Jackson winning 12 more state championships. His head coaching record for 19 years at Apple Valley was 407-70-4. Bill served as President and Secretary of the MWCA and started the 9th Grade League. He was also manager of the state tournament. Bill was the 1995 National High School Wrestling Coach of the Year. He helped shape Section alignments, the three-class system, and the state tournament format as well. Bill is a member of the MSHSL, Apple Valley, MWCA, North Dakota High School, and North Dakota State Halls of Fame. He was a two-time NCAA Division II National Champion for NDSU.

Jack Eustice was one of the outstanding coaches in the state of Minnesota where he coached for 24 seasons. His 22-year run at Blue Earth included a 263-87-4 mark. Jack’s Bucs won a state championship in 2001. His squad also finished runner-up in 1997. His team won six section titles. Jack coached 18 individual state champions. Sons Ty and Luke won seven individual state titles between them. They also wrestled for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and each was a national runner-up. Jack was an NCAA Division II national champion at Mankato State University. He is a member of the MSU, NCAA Division II, and MWCA Bartelma Halls of Fame. Jack was selected to the 75-Year NCC Wrestling Team. He was a state champion at Janesville High School. He’s served as MWCA President and was a state Coach if the Year in 2001.

Coach Gene Hildebrandt was the head coach at St. James High School for 35 years where he returned the Saints to the promised land. His teams won two MSHSL state championships. Gene qualified nine teams for the big show. Four of his teams placed as well. His career coaching record of 471-132-2 was top-ten for most career coaching wins in Minnesota. Gene coached 112 state qualifiers, 46 state place winners, and seven individual state champions. He was elected State Coach of the Year twice. Gene served as Dean of Students at St. James High School where he implemented the School Within a School Program (SWIS) designed to help at-risk youth become successful. He certainly made his wrestlers and students successful, not only on the mat and in the classroom, but in the game of life.

Gary was a two-time NAIA National Champion (1963 and 1964) at 191 pounds for St. Cloud State under Coach Willis Wood and Ken Cox. Gary was selected as the Outstanding Wrestler for the Huskies in 1964. Gary never wrestled in high school, which is truly amazing! He also placed third in shot put at the 1964 NAIA Track Championships. Gary officiated from 1965-1990. His 25-year officiating career included 46 national college championships which is believed to be a record for a college wrestling official in Minnesota. His span of officiating included 20 NJCAA Championships (14 as Head Official), 12 NAIA National Championships, 10 NCAA DI Championships (1980-1990), and four National Catholic Wrestling Championships. Gary is currently on the ballot for the Outstanding Official Award in Stillwater, OK. He serves on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors in Canton, Ohio. He’s a member of the following Halls of Fame: NAIA (Athlete), NJCAA (Official), and St. Cloud State (Athlete). As the legendary Don Meyers would say, “Gary Smith was a good official all the time, not just some of the time.” Minnesota is extremely proud to claim Gary Smith as one of their own.