|Daise to receive Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from Hall of Fame|
|Written by Chris Lee|
“It means a lot to me,” Gene Daise said when asked about being named a recipient of the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Daise, a longtime Holyoke teacher and wrestling coach, will travel to Colorado Springs and the Crowne Plaza Hotel Saturday, May 12 to receive his award during the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Colorado Chapter 14th Annual Honors Banquet.
Daise, 84, was recognized in Holyoke Monday, March 26 during the high school winter sports awards banquet. Athletic director Kimberlee Bennett read a letter that Daise received earlier this year from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum informing him of his accomplishment.
Longtime friend Gary Sperber said a few kind words for the man he wrestled for and coached with throughout the years. Following the words, Daise stood on the stage where he was given a standing ovation by those in the crowd and HHS coaches on stage.
Following the recognition, Daise and Sperber took seats on the stage and shook the hands of each wrestler after they received their awards from coaches Jack Garrison, Cutter Garrison and Dusty McConnell.
Daise, who began the Holyoke wrestling program during the 1953-54 school year, has been deeply involved in the sport throughout his life. He wrestled in high school, college and even tried out for the Olympics in 1948.
Daise wrestled in the Old Timers league in Wray for three years where he won a trophy each year.
Gene Daise, second from right stands with HHS Athletic Director Kimberlee Bennett during the winter sports awards Monday, March 26. Holyoke wrestling coaches Cutter Garrison, Jack Garrison and Dusty McConnell stand behind them during a standing ovation for Daise. Daise was honored during the program for being a recipient of the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He will accept the award at a banquet May 12 in Colorado Springs. —Enterprise photo
Daise recalled a time during his Navy service when his boat, the U.S.S. Iowa docked at Tokyo Bay and his division leader organized a wrestling dual with the U.S.S. Topeka on shore. He can’t remember the score but knows he won his match and his boat ended up winning the dual.
“There’s a lot of people I need to thank for this,” Daise said. He noted he began wrestling with his brother Bob when he was 4 years old.
“He gave me the inspiration to tackle anybody that I didn’t think would hurt me,” Daise said with a smile on his face. “It’s a great sport.”
Daise said he is looking forward to attending the banquet and seeing some of his “wrestling buddies.”
Daise is one of five guys to receive the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award this year in Colorado. The only other recipient Daise knows is Ben Duell. Others receiving the award are Ray Barron, Mike Pallotto and Gary Ramsetter. Gene Bunnelle will receive the Outstanding American award.
A list of Colorado State Wrestling awards will also be presented.
Daise graduated from Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University) in 1950 and moved to Holyoke where he became the Vocational Ag teacher at Phillips County High School.
Daise said it was coach Julius Wagoner who visited him in Goodland, Kan. during high school and convinced him to go and wrestle for CSU—where he won the Skyline Conference his senior year.
After about a year in Holyoke, Daise left for a couple years to serve in the Korean War but returned to Holyoke in 1953.
It was in Holyoke where Gene and wife Carolyn raised their five children, Dan, Shirley, Mary, Debbie and David.
Daise saw a need for a wrestling program at Phillips County High School when he returned. During the 1953-54 school year, wrestling joined football, basketball and track as an official sport at Phillips County High School.
Daise said there was only one division of wrestling in the 1950s, so it didn’t matter what size of school the wrestler was from, they were all in the same competition.
Holyoke’s first state champion came in 1957 when Jim Ferguson claimed the title in the 120-pound class. Daise said they were hoping Sperber would win state the following year but a questionable call kept him from earning gold.
Daise’s enthusiasm for the sport has continued throughout the years.
In addition to Ferguson’s state championship in 1957, other state champs from Holoke High School include Tyler Chappell in 1998, Robbie Doman in 2001, Andrew Colglazier in 2003, Landon Bergner in 2004, Chad Stroh 2008, 2009 and 2010 and Mark Edmonds 2010, 2011 and 2012.
With Edmonds just becoming Holyoke’s second three-time state champion, Daise said he hopes to see Edmonds continue to carry on and spread the sport.
“I’m a real fan of his,” Daise said with a quivering lip, knowing how hard Edmonds has worked on wrestling throughout his life.
After many years of coaching, Daise continued to serve the wrestling program in Holyoke. He has helped with the peewee kids, and has helped run clock and keep score.
In 2005, Daise received the CADA Honor Award from the Colorado Athletic Directors Association for his outstanding community service to both football and wrestling.
In his time in Holyoke, Daise was involved with the Holyoke Community Federal Credit Union board for over 30 years. He is a member of VFW and American Legion and Knights of Columbus.
He still enjoys sitting in the stands during home wrestling meets, watching the sport he helped create in Holyoke nearly 60 years ago.
Anyone wishing to join Gene and Carolyn at the honors banquet may do so. Questions may be directed to them by calling 854-2825.
For more information on the Hall of Fame, visit www.wrestlinghalloffame.org.
Holyoke Enterprise April 5, 2012