Founders Award

2014 Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee

In 2014, 45 years since its inception, the Board of Directors and the Selection Committee of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame created a “Founders Award” honoring three founding members of the Iowa Wrestling of Fame. The three, Bob Howard, Nehl McKone and Don Gooder have been the only board members to serve as the board’s representative on the Selection Committee.

The Selection Committee operates independently of the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame and determines who will be inducted into the hall each year. As the board’s representative, these three founding members have been instrumental in the growth of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Bob Howard served as the first board representative to the Selection Committee, followed by Nehl McKone, and then Don Gooder. Mr.Howard passed away in 1976, followed by McKone in 2009, while Mr. Gooder still serves in that capacity.

Don Gooder answers a few questions about the history and future of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

How did all this get started 45 years ago?

Answer: It started a few years before we organized the hall when Tom Peckham was wrestling at Iowa State. A group of men from Cresco traveled all over the country watching him wrestle.  When Iowa State won the national title at Wyoming we hosted a party out there. The group decided we would host a dinner in Cresco, and we had a couple of dinners at the Tower Club at Vernon that went over pretty well over the first few years.

Russ Smith, the Waterloo Courier Sport Editor, attended those dinners and wrote about them. After some talk among our group and Russ,we decided to hand out awards. Russ helped us organize a selection committee and that’s the short version of how things got started.

Who were some key people who got it started?

Answer: The original organizers and board members were Chris Flanagan, Dale Turnmire, Nehl McKone, Gayland Peter, Bob Howard, Joe Vokaty and myself.

The original Selection Committee was Russ Smith, Keith Young, Finn Eriksen, Spade Harmon and Bob Howard.

How was the Hall of Fame funded?

Answer: We tried to make a little money on the sale of dinner tickets and drinks and that hasn’t changed since it started. The plaques we give out were expensive and I’m certain we took out a loan. Many times through the years our founding members and other board members to follow have dug into their own pockets to make things work.

What were some of the highlights through the years?

Answer: In short the first highlight was when we moved the hall out of the basement of the theater and moved it to the Welcome Center. It got us out in the public’s eye much better. Another was when we trademarked our name because it protected our identity and all the work we put into making it happen. Then when we developed our web site. That protected all the information that was in the hall of fame and enabled anyone from around the world to ‘visit’ our hall.

45 years later and it still works?

Answer: Our board members through the years have been unselfish,and do anything they can to make this work. We all have our own opinions but those are put aside when it comes down to what is best for the hall. The Selection Committee is very important and they too do what is best for wrestling.The Selection Committee is made up of some of the most respected wrestling people around. Inductees know of the people on our Selection Committee and are honored to be selected. We have a solid group of businesses and individuals who contribute and we also have a loyal group of people who come to our banquet every year. I could name them but I’m sure I’d leave someone out.

What’s in the future?

Answer: Our future is nothing but bright. We proved we are now self-sustaining when we paid for the expansion and remodeling of the Hall of Fame last year and because we’re in Iowa we’ll never run out of good wrestlers to honor!

Founders Award Featured Photo