LEDYARD – It’s been a few weeks since the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame held its most recent induction ceremony. But the glow from the evening still shines brightly for the nearly 600 men and women that attended the event on May 4.
Six individuals were recognized at Foxwoods Resort and Casino for their work on and off the mat with young men and women in wrestling.
“To the surprise of many, this was so much more,” said Ted Oczkowski, president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “The banquet not only celebrated the great sport of wrestling but it showed how wrestling is the essence of success in many lives and is an essential component of people being grounded and realistic in today’s fast-moving world.”
Six men joined 38 other inductees in the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
- Colonel Charles Anderson, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient who has served in the Connecticut Army National Guard for more than 30 years, and as the head wrestling coach at both Trumbull High and Norwalk High
- John Bennett, a coach, official and four-time member of the U.S. Veterans World team
- Patrick Burns, former New Milford High coach, an official and CIAC wrestling committee member
- Carmen DelVecchio, one of the top officials in New England and in the nation
- Jason Shaughnessy, the high school coach at Fairfield Warde and Fairfield High and founder and coach with the Police Athletic League (PAL) youth wrestling program in Fairfield
- Dennis Siegmann, the former head coach at Bristol Central High for 22 years and an assistant coach at two junior colleges that won four national championships in six years.
There was so much emotion in the room – joy, thankfulness, happiness. For many, the induction ceremony serves as a reunion of old friends whose friendships were forged during the long hours on the mat in the practice room and weekend tournaments. Thirteen past inductees were present to welcome the newest members of the Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame wrestler Gene Mills, a two-time World Cup champion, two-time NCAA champion and 1980 Olympian, was the guest speaker at the sold-out banquet. Lee Roy Smith, president of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Oklahoma, attended and presented awards to the inductees.
“The evening celebrated the life-changing experiences of wrestlers, coaches, officials and their families from having the opportunity to experience the sport of wrestling,” Oczkowski said.
All six inductees spoke of how wrestling has influenced their lives. All six had video introductions that described how they made a difference in the lives of the wresters on their teams and the wrestling community.
Bennett, Burns, DelVecchio, Shaughnessy and Siegmann received a Lifetime Achievement award for coaches, officials, or contributors with at least 20 years of service. Anderson was recognized as an Outstanding American, a former wrestler who is highly successful in his/her profession.
The Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame holds induction banquets every three years with the next banquet scheduled to be held in 2022.
Enjoy the introductory videos below about the six inductees and a sampling of photos from the banquet.
Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame that hosts the induction banquet.