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Paying respect to the person your wrestling event is named after?

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The wrestling community has all sorts of multi-duals,  tournaments and even some wrestling rooms named after someone.  Yes, we can assume most, if not all, of the honorees had a connection to the wrestling team or athletic program.  However, for most people that as much as we think about that person.  As a historian of the sport I’d love to hear the story of who these individuals were.  If it was worth placing their namesake on an event then it only seems right that we should also take a moment to honor the person as well. 

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Jay County honored their most successful coach in it's history last night.

Tim Klingensmith was honored by being presented with a Key to the Jay County Wrestling Room.

During Tim's 10 years as head coach he lead the program to the following

-          Eight Sectional Championships

-          Six Regional Championships

-          Semi State Team Championship 1982

-          State Third Place finish 1987

-          Two Individual State Champions 1987

-          Eight other Medalist

-          Dual Record of  92-28

In 43 years of wrestling at Jay County High School there have been 40 state qualifiers, 22 of those came under Coach Klingensmith in his10 years, with the other 18 over the remaining 33 years.


Tim Key Pic.jpg

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I wrote this for Coach Wilk the year we renamed the Penn Super Duals to the Henry Wilk Classic

Henry Wilk Classic


On December 19, 2015 The Penn High School Wrestling Team would like to Honor and Recognize Mr. Henry Wilk for his 23 years of service and commitment to Penn HARRIS Madison School Corporation students and athletics. Coach Wilk was the 1st State Champion in Mishawka Wrestling History 1969 under the tutelage of Al Smith. From There Coach Wilk went on to wrestle at Anderson University where he had a stellar career. In 1977 Coach Wilk became the HEAD Wrestling Coach at Grissom Middle School where he coached for 10 years. In 1988 He took over the Penn High School Wrestling Job, were he groomed and trained hundreds of wrestlers to be outstanding young men in our community. Coach Wilk Guided numerous Team Sectional, Regional, Semi State Championships as well as many State qualifiers. His biggest accomplishment was in 1997 where he guided his Kingsmen to a State runner-up finish barely losing to Evansville Mater Dei. Under Coach Wilks realm he has molded many young men to give back to the wrestling community not only as coaches, referees, but administrators throughout the United States. In 1997 Coach Wilk was inducted into the IHSAA Wrestling Hall of Fame for his many endeavors. Currently Henry Wilk still resides in Osceola where he still gives back to the sport of wrestling through officiating, clinics and one on one sessions. Coach Wilk currently plays over 200 rounds of Golf with Mulitple Hole-in-ones and is currently striving to earn his PGA Senior Tour Card.

For everything you have done for this sport we would like to honor you with renaming the Penn Super Dual to the Henry Wilk Classic for many years to come. We would like to wish you nothing but happiness and well-being. Thanks for everything you have done!

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  This would be a shallow topic if we did not expound upon the toughest tournament in the state and and arguably the best in the nation, if we leave out the Al Smith Wrestling Tournament.

   For those of you who don't know who Coach Al Smith is, I will start out with just a few staggering statistics.  Coach Smith has close to 100 former wrestlers that are, or have coached at the Elementary, High School, Collegiate and International levels. Coach Smith has coached several athletes who have gone on to become National Freestyle Champions and Collegiate All Americans. Coach Smith is also responsible for close to 100 wrestlers, coaches, contributors and officials who have been inducted into the IHSWCA Hall of Fame as he sits on the Hall of  Fame Nomination committee.

   Coach Smith was also the President of the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association on several different occasions. Back in the 60's we had 16 team sectionals where only the champion advanced. Regionals that were comparable to today's semistates where only the champion qualified for the state championships, meaning there were only 4 wrestlers in the state finals!  You couldn't have a bad weekend! Coach Smith was responsible for battling with the IHSAA to expand and enhance the number of qualifiers for the next stage of the state tournament.  The element of having a "bad weekend" or maybe victimized by a tough call gave wrestlers a better opportunity for advancement.  Some of the battles he won and some he lost, but he impressed upon State Officials that wrestling was important to this State!

  In the early 70's when freestyle competition began to take roots in Indiana, Coach Smith would take wrestlers (not only Mishawaka wrestlers) to tournaments in Southern Michigan and Opens in Indiana too.  My most memorable times would be the early 70's and the AAU State Freestyle meets at Indianapolis Tech where he would hall wrestlers down to compete, he would coach, officiate, (at times feed)  and encourage other coaches to help officiate a style of wrestling that was foreign to most us. Back in those days we had just a hand full of freestyle officials. It was not uncommon to see Coach Smith in the corner coaching a wrestler who was not even a Mishawaka kid either chewing them out for not hitting a move, or patting them on the back encouraging their efforts. He truly was the pioneer in at least Northern Indiana, if not the state. I chuckle when I hear cheap talk about growing this great  sport! Al Smith is the epitome of growing the sport!

   In the 1972 Olympic team trials, held in Anoka, Minnesota, Coach Smith drove  Penn's first State Champion,  Al Dover to compete in the 149.5 lb. weight class.  Dover ended up wrestling the eventual Olympic Champion, a guy by the name of Dan Gable. Obviously Al Dover lost, but what other coach would drive 7 hours to give a young man an opportunity to chase his dream?

  Coach Smith's coaching record is astounding by itself, attested by his total number of state champs and team State Championship in '91, but it goes a lot deeper than that.  The best way I can describe a conversation with Coach Smith is that when you walk away from him, you feel like a breath of fresh air has just run through you.  He made you feel good about yourself! With his positive attitude, humble demeanor and competitive nature, Coach Al Smith made his wrestlers love this great sport of wrestling!

   Hopefully, I've given you some incite on why the Al Smith Wrestling tournament, which started as an 8 team invitational in the '70's, to the tournament it is today! Also a little information about one of Indiana's Legendary Wrestling figures, Al Smith!

In Wrestling,

Henry Wilk


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  • 3 weeks later...

The Jim Nicholson Invite, formerly the Elkhart Memorial Charger Invite, has always been a tip of the hat to the wrestling community in Northern Indiana.  Coach Nick, as we always called him, was as fierce a competitor as he was a friend.  If your team was invited to the Charger Invite it was a compliment to the coach and the friendship you shared with Jim.  If you were an official working the tournament you were hand-picked by him, mostly out of respect for you body of work.  Jim ran the tournament hospitality like a holiday party at this home.  He wanted everyone to come hungry (for food and competition) and leave happy.  The tournament is bracketed in pools to ensure everyone gets 5 matches when all spots are filled.  The management alwasys keeps everything on schedule.  The food was always the show stopper.  Coach Nick always allowed the parents to flex their culinary skills once a year.  The hospitality room was something to write home about.  If the schedule ever ran over it was due to an extended lunch break, and no one ever complained.  Coach was a very wise man.  Many of the teams involved would meet again at Sectional.  This tournament provided head-to-head competition that kept the seeding meeting arguments to a minimum in January.  Every detail of the tournament had to meet his high standards.  That went for his team, as well.  As one of his athletes you wanted to perform well.  As it was during my high school career, and well into adulthood, greater than any medal or ribbon were the words you wanted to hear from Coach Nick - I'm proud of you.  As all too many of us already know, cancer is a son-of-a-bitch.  Even as his time on earth grew short you could find him on or near a mat in Elkhart County any day of the week.  The pump he carried strapped over his shoulder was a reminder of what a tough human-being he really was; or maybe instead, just a reminder of what wrestling meant to him...

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