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WWB DON JUNG HALL OF MERIT

In 2007, Wrestlers WithOut Borders created the WWB Don Jung Hall of Merit not to recognize people who sought fame, but rather to honor people who have displayed sacrifice and selflessness to encourage other to achieve as much as they could and to create safe and supportive wrestling opportunities for athletes regardless of skill level, gender, orientation or age. The wrestling community is composed of competitors, officials, coaches and supporters and the Hall seeks to honor their legacies.
The Foundation Class, focused on the first two Gay Games, was announced at Golden Gate's renamed Don Jung Wrestling Tournament in May 2007. Gene Dermody received the Atlas Award for lifetime contributions starting with Gay Games I; other honorees or their representatives received framed certificates for their involvement with the organzation of Gay Games I and II wrestling.
A larger Inaugural Class, representing a quarter of century of catching up to do, was selected to recognize pioneers and founders from all of the WWB clubs. It was named at the inaugural WWB Cup Tournament in Chicago, May of 2008. Each honoree received a trophy and a ceritificate.

 

GENE DERMODY

Atlas Award - Foundation Class 2007

Gene Dermody is the only wrestler to have competed in all seven of the first Gay Games. He founded Wrestlers WithOut Borders), has been the President of Golden Gate WC since the passing of Don Jung in 1986, and has served as an ambassador from wrestling on the Federation of Gay Games, where he has held numerous positions including President, Technology Officer and Sports Officer. He was elected Treasurer of WWB in 2006 and re-elected to that office in 2008. As treasurer, he launched the initiative for the Hall of Merit and funded the awards for the 2008 inaugurees out of his own pocket.

Born on Nov. 8, 1948 in New Jersey, Dermody taught science and coached wrestling at local high schools until he competed in the 1982 Gay Games, where he earned a bronze at 62 kilograms. He has been a California resident ever since.

The only Games in which Dermody did not medal was Gay Games IV in New York, due to injury. Gene finally broke through for gold in Sydney in 2002 when he jumped up to the 84 kg class, and successfully defended his title in 2006.

 Dermody has been the lead coordinator for wrestling in the past several Gay Games and is currently working to ensure the quality of the wrestling tournaments including the Gay Games.

DON JUNG

Foundation Class 2007

Don Jung founded Golden Gate Wrestling Club in 1982 at the request of Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell, who needed a legitimate local wrestling club to serve as host team for the inaugural Gay Games wrestling tournament.
Jung organized the tournament and solicited competition from Southern California Wrestling Club and won a gold medal that first tournament at 149.5 pounds. After becoming very ill from AIDS just before Gay Games II in 1986, Jung returned to win the silver medal at the same weight, then died during those Games.
Jung was a well-respected art teacher and wrestling coach at Mission High School. He secured USAW sanctioning for the tournament and recruited top wrestlers and officials. Wrestling is the only sport to have been sanctioned in every Gay Games.

STEVE SWANSON

Foundation Class 2007

Steve Swanson was one of the unsung heroes of Gay Games I and II. He had established a spectacularly successful wrestling program at his Catholic high school and was a natural choice to team with Mission High School Coach Don Jung to help organize the wrestling tournament for the first two Games, winning a silver medal at 180 pounds in Gay Games I. He also quietly lent wrestling mats for Golden Gate practices and tournaments to help the club in its early days.  Although he was closeted at work, he always made the effort to reach out to students he thought needed more direction. He saw one kid in Riordan High School's hallways whose life was clearly in a downward spiral of delinquency and drugs. He recruited that student, Vittoria "Vic" Anastasio. Anastasio said it turned his life around. Steve was honored posthumously at GGWC's renamed Don Jung Memorial Tournament in 2007, when Vic succeeded Steve as wrestling coach at Riordan after Swanson died in 1989.

Swanson was an active member of the Bay Area Wrestling Association and created his own tournament: the Crusader Classic.

"The skills he picked up as a coach and tournament director were transferred over to the Golden Gate Wrestling Club and the Gay Games," Anastasio said. 


ALLEN ABRAHAM

Foundation Class 2007

Allen Abraham gave the keynote address for the wrestling tournament at the first Gay Games. It was considered an emotional highlight, crystalizing the realization for all who heard it that they were doing something of historical significance, something that had never been attempted before in sports.



Abraham was inducted into the SFSU Hall of Fame in 2001. He wrestled at Turlock High School and took third in the Northern California High School Wrestling Championships in 1958. He wrestled and played football for San Francisco State College from 1958-1961. In 1961, he won the Far Western Conference title at 191 and finished second in the Pacific Coat Intercollegiate Championships.

Abraham coached wrestling for 18 years at SFSU. His teams and wrestlers won many conference and individual awards.  He was selected five times as the Far Western Conference Coach of the Year. He helped develop more than 60 high school and college California wrestling coaches. He was a Director  and participant of many national training camps and organizations throughout the wrestling community.

Abraham was all too familiar with the effects of prejudice in sports. When he heard about the Gay Games, he knew he wanted to be there to let the wrestlers know the doors were being kicked open.

PETER RUNYON

Foundation Class 2007

Peter Runyon was an inspirational founder of the Southern California Wrestling Club in the 1970s: the dominant wrestling team in the first two Gay Games and provided guidance for San Francisco's Golden Gate Wrestling Club when it was formed.

Runyon died July 20, 2008, from complications due to cardio obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 78.


SCWC past president Eddie Chen said: "Peter founded SCWC in 1972, making our club one of the oldest gay wrestling clubs in existence. In 1982 he was instrumental in bringing the club to wrestling dominance in Gay Games I. Under his leadership SCWC repeated its domination four years later in Gay Games II. Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s Peter was the driving force that made our club the most successful gay wrestling club of that time.  But it was his spirit of friendship and his welcoming attitude toward all that was his greatest legacy to our club. It is that spirit that survives in our club to this day."

He did the organizing, booked fundraisers, kept track of and handled the monies, etc. He was a businessman. He loved to wrestle. He was smart, and had a good sense of humor. Runyon retired from SCWC in 1994.

In the 2006 Gay Games VII wrestling program documenting the history of the gay clubs, Runyon said of wrestling, "When you see guys on the mat who are in an impossible situation and all of a sudden they break free — then you know they have the driving spirit that is so important in life. You don't know how much I miss wrestling. Wrestling brings you closer together but also challenges you more than most sports. When you remember the matches you have had private or public you can't fail but have a sense of pride, satisfaction, joy and fulfillment."

JOHNNY ALMONY

Inaugural Class 2008

Johnny Almony began wrestling in 1997 when he joined Golden Gate WC and became team captain the following year, succeeding Gene Dermody in that capacity. Successfully altering the club's wrestling style and culture and his legendary patience selflessly working one-on-one with each wrestler helped all who worked with him raise the level of their effort.
Almony was a tireless organizer for GGWC tournaments, clinics and fundraisers. A certified USAW Official, he officiated and conducted a coaching clinic at San Diego's inaugural tournament in 2007. Almony helped to establish Golden Gate Alliance Wrestling.  He competed in three Gay Games, earning bronze in Amsterdam, gold in Sydney, and, after suffering a head injury that forced him to defaul his final match, another bronze in Chicago. 
In addition to helping maintain GGWC's web site and doing a generous chunk of the work at all fundraisers, Johnny has also graced GGWC with his artwork. The bear design adopted by Alliance Wrestling is his.

ROGER BRIGHAM

Inaugural Class 2008

Almost 30 years after he had stopped competing in wrestling and nearly 20 years after he had stopped coaching, Roger Brigham hobbled into the realm of Wrestlers WithOut Borders in 2003 — two years after both of his hips were surgically replaced with prosthetic titanium implants. He was named to the Hall of Merit not for what he achieved as an athlete on the mat, but rather for his work for wrestling off the mat as a coach, advocate, lobbyist and community leader.
Along with GGWC teammate John Ascher, Brigham became a WWB delegate to the Federation of Gay Games late in 2003 just in time for the withdrawal of Montreal as host for the 2006 Gay Games. In short order, he became a member of the negotiating committee that reached agreement with Chicago to become the new Gay Games host, launched a participant-oriented newsletter for the Gay Games to help recruit athletes for the Games, and initiated a rewriting of the organizational structure of the FGG.
In addition, while working with Gene Dermody to head up the FGG's sports inclusion and drug-testing committees, he wrote the official philosophy statement that called for diversity of athletic opportunity rather than mere popularity to be the basis for inclusion of Gay Games sports while lobbying for drug-testing policies that would accommodate the needs of older recreational athletes and athletes impacted by HIV.
In 2007, working with Johnny Almony and Ross Capdeville, Brigham founded Golden Gate Alliance Wrestling, a program that enabled GGWC to support local high schools with pro bono coaching and training facilities.  
Brigham coached with GGWC joining it in 2003 and has made coaching appearances with WWB wrestlers in many cities.. He is believed to have been the first person to compete in freestyle wrestling on artificial hips, earning a silver medal at the 2004 USA Wresting Far Western, a gold at the 2006 Gay Games, and a silver at the inaugural WWB Cup in 2008.
Brigham began wrestling at Worthington High School in Ohio, winning more than 30 matches while losing only once.
Brigham was Chair of WWB for several years beginning in 2006 and has designed, written and created numerous marketing materials for WWB, co-writing with Dermody the history of Gay Games wrestling provided on this web site.

RUSS CONNELLY

Inaugural Class 2008

Few wrestlers have gone as many extra miles as Russ Connelly to wrestle and to create opportunities for others.


Connelly began wrestling with the Southern California Wrestling Club in January 1993 while living in Bakersfield: about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.  Connelly was eagerly encouraged and instructed by long-time SCWC wrestler Ron Ward and was able to make it to practice only once a month because of the long commute those first few years, but overtime he gained the skills to maintain a presence on the mat. In 1995, Connelly moved to San Diego. 

Connelly and Dennis Mori started the San Diego Bulldogs Wrestling Club in 1998. That June, members of the Bulldogs along with wrestlers from the SCWC in Los Angeles held a beverage bust and wrestling demonstration at a local bar. Money raised from beverage busts along with sales of logo T-shirts helped put money toward acquiring mats. By August 1998, the club was holding its first practices at a karate studio in North Park. By the end of 1998, the club roster listed more than 40 paid members and a contact/interest list of more than 60.

Connelly went on to compete in the Sydney Gay Games in 2002 and participated as a volunteer in the Chicago Gay Games of 2006. He has attended the Don Jung Memorial Tournament in San Francisco since 1995 and traveled to Pennsylvania for the Hillside Wrestling Camp in 2001.

JEK FONG

Inaugural Class 2008

Contributor to Gay Games

ED LINDSAY

Inaugural Class 2008

Founder and participant in New York's Twin Towers Wrestling Club

KEVIN MARTIN

Inaugural Class 2008

Member of the Philadelphia Spartans Wrestling Club

KATHY MCADAMS

Inaugural Class 2008

Kathy McAdams was one of eight women who wrestled for Golden Gate at the 1994 Gay Games in New York,— a historic Games that allowed women's wrestling eight years before the Summer Olymoics followed suit in Athens.
McAdams took silver in the 220 pound class.

LES MORGAN

Inaugural Class 2008

Long Time official with USA Wrestling and the Bay Area Wrestling Association

ALEX OSTROVSKIY

Inaugural Class 2008

Abraham "Alex" Ostrovskiy exemplifies the meaning of the name "Wrestlers WithOut Borders" like few others. With ore than six decades of his life devoted to the sport, he has proven himself to be a true citizen of the world.
Coach Alex began his wrestling career in his native Soviet Union, survived the German invasion during World War II and was a member of the Soviet National Team in the mid-1950s. He coached and competed all across the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, was repeatedly chosen technically the most superior wrestler in major tournaments, and went on to earn the highest rating possible for a FILA official; so high that when FILA instituted mandatory retirement ages, the requirement for him to retire was waived. 
After emigrating to the United States and working as an assistant high school wrestling coach while continuing to officiate, Coach Alex hooked up with Golden Gate WC and installed his Russian style of wrestling, working with Captain Johnny Almony as his right-hand man.
He has continued to help with clinics and officiating with GGWC events and the new Alliance Wrestling program and was critical in helping land the top officiating for the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

BOB SAYERS

Inaugural Class 2008

Bob and his partner organized and ran the Hillside Wrestling Camp for many years in the Pocono Mountains of Northern Pennsylvania and a long time supporter of East Coast wrestling clubs.

RICK VAN TASSELL

Inaugural Class 2008

Rick, a long time member of the Spartans Wrestling club and organizer of several tournaments and instrumental in assistance for the Gay Games.

RON WARD

Inaugural Class 2008

A long time participant in the GGWC and SCWC, Ron and his friendly approachable style and was the glue behind the Southern California club for many years as a coach, mentor and organizer.

BARRY WEBB

Inaugural Class 2008

An Aussie with a long history of wrestling, he help lead the development of the sport in Australia.

PHILLIPPE BRUNO

Class of 2009

Inducted in 2009

JOHN ENGLISH

Class of 2009

Inducted in 2009

ERIKA HOM

Class of 2009

A long time member of GGWC, Erika started wrestling at Arizona State.  She brings a unique perspective to the Golden Gate club and has been a sanctioned referee for USA Wrestling.  She has wrestled or volunteered in several Gay Games and tournaments with other WWB clubs.

MICHAEL LOFURNO

Class of 2009

A wrestler from New York, he has participated in many tournaments and Gay Games and remains a wrestling supporter and organizer.

ERICH RICHTER

Class of 2009

A long time member of GGWC, Erich continues to support wrestling in the Bay Area and the Golden Gate wrestlers.

DENNIS SPILLMAN

Class of 2009

A wrestling organizer recognized for his efforts as part of wrestling clubs in Philadelphia and Phoenix, Dennis has continued his involvement in promoting the formation, coaching and operation of wrestling clubs.

MICHAEL OGNIBENE

Class of 2011-12

Recognized in the class of 2011-12

ROCHELLE ROBINSON

Class of 2011-12

Member of the GGWC she went on to promote wrestling in the Bay Area

ALBERT 'ACE' ROCEK

Class of 2011-12

recognized in the class of 2011-12.

MIKE RIO

Class of 2011-12

Wrestler in Southern California, Mike overcame homophobia to wrestle in the Gay Games and become a supporter of wrestling in the LA area.

CALVIN MALONE

Class of 2013

Long time member of GGWC and participant in several Gay Games, Calvin was a California High School champion and has coached the Alliance Wrestling Club, a part of the GGWC.

MANFRED MOLT

Class of 2013

Long time European wrestler and organizer.

CARLIS SHARPE

Class of 2013

Carlis participated in the first three Gay Games as a member of the Golden Gate Wrestling Club.

DREW TILL

Class of 2013

Drew Till had a long history of wrestling in Australia.

PETER VEREY

Class of 2013

As a member of the Harbour City Wrestling club in Sydney, Peter helped organize and participated in the Gay Games held in Australia in 2002.

MATT CAREY

Class of 2014

A member of the Southern California Wrestling club, Matt participated in several Gay Games.

TONY GALLUZZO

Class of 2014

A resident of Sydney, Tony has help facilitate and participate in wrestling clubs and tournaments around the world

GARY GERBER

Class of 2014

Long time member and supporter of the San Diego Wrestling Club, Gary participated in both the Gay Games and Outgames in 2006 where he medaled at both.

GREG LINES

Class of 2014

Greg started as a participant and later Coach of the San Diego Wrestling Club and led them during 3 Gay Games.  He went on to form and lead his own wrestling club in Denver.  He is also a sanctioned referee with USA Wrestling.

NICK LOPEZ

Class of 2014

A participant with both the Southern California and San Diego Wrestling Clubs, nick has participated in many tournaments and has coached the San Diego club for several years.

MIKE MASINO

Class of 2014

Mike has medaled in several Gay Games and coached the Southern California Wrestling Club during the 1990's.  He also participated with the San Diego Wrestling Club for several years.

DAVID RANABA

Class of 2014

David has a long history of wrestling participation in several events.

JEROEN TAN

Class of 2014

Jeroen has helped organize and participated in several tournaments and events throughout the European Wrestling community and has organized his own club based in Amsterdam.

MICHAEL 'MITCH' ERTEL

Class of 2018

Mitch has helped organize and participated in several Gay Games held in Europe as well as his own club based in Berlin.

CAMERON INTHAPANGNA

Class of 2018

Cameron has been instrumental in the formation of the Melbourne wrestling club and has assisted in increasing the profile of wrestling throughout Australia.

GUS SCHEERBAUM

Class of 2018

Gus has been a long time member and assistant with the Philadelphia Spartans Wrestling Club and has a long history of Gay Games participation as well as wrestling events throughout the East Coast of the US.

JOSH WATKINS

Class of 2018

Josh formed a wrestling club in Chicago to help facilitate the Gay Games in that city in 2006.  After moving to San Francisco, he has assisted in wrestling events throughout the West Coast of the US.  He is a sanctioned referee of USA Wrestling.

 

DEPARTED BROTHERS AND SISTERS

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3 May 1932 - 11 April 2016

Wrestling Gear

DON JUNG

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Wrestling Gear

STEVE SWANSON

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Wrestling Gear

CARL ROGER MARTIN III

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22nd. December 1945 - 20th. April 2018

Wrestling Gear

CLIFF BROWN

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Wrestling Gear

MIKE RIO

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1st. January 1964 - 20th. October 2018