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Daise enters Wrestling Hall of Fame PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

It was a big day in the life of Gene Daise Saturday, May 12, when he was one of six Coloradans inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement.

Honored at the Colorado Chapter’s annual banquet, Daise represented Holyoke proudly.

Now 84, Daise’s love for wrestling spans eight decades, back to when he was 4 years old and started wrestling with his older brother Bob.

“Winning was not important, it was the thrill of the match,” he told the assembled crowd at the Crowne Plaza in Colorado Springs last Saturday.

Daise wrestled when he served in the U.S. Navy, he competed for Colorado State University, lettering four years and even tried out for the Olympics.

“In 1948, I drove back to Ames, Iowa, to try out for the Olympics,” Daise said Saturday night. “The rules were a little different from the college rules. If you didn’t get a pin, you got eliminated. Although I won all four of my matches, I didn’t get a pin, so I drove back to Colorado.”

When he returned to Holyoke from his second tour of duty with the Navy, Daise said Holyoke had decided to add wrestling to the winter sports, and he was assigned to be the coach for the inaugural season in 1953-54.

Lots of memories on the mats were made for Daise, and his induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame comes as a well-deserved reward for such a strong supporter of the sport of wrestling.

One of six Coloradans inducted into the National
Wrestling Hall of Fame at the Colorado Chapter
honors banquet Saturday, Gene Daise is pictured
with his honor plaque, wearing his new jacket.
—Photos by Melissa Stroh

Daise had a solid cheering section of family and friends who witnessed proudly his acceptance of the prestigious wrestling honor. They came from Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming and New Mexico to honor the wrestling icon.

Family members who attended the program were Gene’s wife Carolyn; sons Dan of Denver and David of Rock Springs, Wyo.; daughters Mary of Sterling and Debbie of Louisville; grandson William of Denver; brothers Bob of Goodland, Kan. and Richard of Ellis, Kan.; and cousin Wilma Jo Taira and her husband George and their son Kevin and his wife Judy, all of Gallup, N.M.

Also attending Saturday’s event were Gary and Carolyn Sperber of Holyoke. Sperber was a wrestler in Daise’s early years of coaching in Holyoke, then they later were both teachers and coaches in the district­—making for a lasting friendship.

Others in Daise’s cheering section were Duane and Melissa Stroh of Mead, Steve and Janet Wood of Buena Vista, Ray and Phyllis Sperber of Colorado Springs, Nicholas and Tiffany Colglazier of Parker and Matt Kleve of Colorado Springs.

Daise was a college friend of Gordon Starbuck, who is now deceased. But Starbuck’s wife Lorene of Montrose and their daughter Marcia Pearson of Greeley were pleased to be in the crowd supporting Daise.

Ben Duell, former wrestling coach at Burlington, was another of the lifetime achievement award winners Saturday night. Ironically, he and Daise were both Goodland, Kan. High School graduates. Ben’s brother, Norm Duell, lives northwest of Holyoke.

Others earning lifetime achievement honors from the Colorado Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame were coaches Ray Barron, Heritage; Mike Pallotto, Roosevelt; and Gary Ramstetter, Alamosa.

Gene Daise’s wrestling life was on display at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Colorado Chapter Annual Honors Banquet Saturday, May 12 at the Crowne Plaza in Colorado Springs.

In addition, Gene Bunnelle, longtime administrator including several years with the Colorado High School Activities Association, was cited with the organization’s outstanding American award.

Also among the state awards, Center High School’s Diego Pons, who lost part of his leg as a youth but competed at the state tournament in February, was cited for special merit.

In accepting his award, Daise reminisced of old-timers matches in Wray where he held his own.

“I don’t work out with the high school boys any more, but through the years I enjoyed working with the kids. And I’m happy to see the boys have something to keep them in shape during the winter,” said the honored wrestling participant and supporter who will forever keep the sport near to his heart.

Daise was honored in Holyoke for his National Hall of Fame award at the HHS winter sports award program March 26.

Holyoke Enterprise May 17, 2012