Five Former National Champions to be Inducted into Jim Koch Division II Hall of Fame
by Mike Kirk
CLEVELAND, Ohio (Feb. 20) – Five former national champions who combined for 560 career wins and a long-time coach have been selected for induction into the Jim Koch Division II Hall of Fame, it was announced Tuesday by the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coaches’ Association.
Wrestlers Shad Benton, Lee Schickel and Shane Valko of the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown and Antonio Guerra and Andy Uhl of the University of Findlay along with Findlay head coach Shawn Nelson comprise the 2019 class.
The six will be enshrined at the Jim Koch Division II Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held Thursday, March 7 in the West Wing of the Wolstein Center on the Cleveland State University campus on the eve of start of the 2019 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships.
The social will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the program to start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door (cash or check only). Questions about tickets can be addressed to Mike Kirk at 405-615-2233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A native of Freedom, Pa., Benton proved to be one of the most dominant 157-pounders of his era. He captured three East Regional championships, was a three-time All-American with one national title and finished his UPJ career with a stellar 101-9 record, including a 45-1 mark in duals.
Benton started his career at Penn State before transferring to UPJ in the spring of 2000. He went 19-5 that season, winning the East Regional title and finishing seventh in the national tournament.
Benton came back as a junior to set the school record for single-season wins with 36, finishing 36-2 overall with 12 falls. He claimed a second straight East Regional crown and earned repeat All-America honors with a third-place national finish.
Benton broke his own single-season wins record the following year with a dominating 46-2 senior campaign that including a 21-0 mark in duals. He placed fifth in the prestigious Midlands Open and won a third straight East Regional title before ending his career with the Division II national championship.
Schickel was a four-time national qualifier and three-time All-American for the Mountain Cats in the mid-1990s. He also won three East Regional titles and finished with a 108-25 career record that included just one dual loss.
A native of Irwin, Pa., Schickel broke into the UPJ starting lineup at 126 pounds as a redshirt freshman in 1992-93, finishing with a 24-8 record. He was runner-up in the East Regional and finished seventh in the national tournament to claim All-America honors.
Schickel went 27-7 and captured his first East Regional crown the following season in making another trip to the national tournament, then won 39 matches as a junior in taking a second straight East Regional title and placing fifth at nationals.
Schickel capped his career in storybook fashion as a senior in 1995-96. He won the East Regional for a third consecutive time and then earned a 7-6 overtime decision in the 126-pound national finals to capture the national championship and lead the Mountain Cats to a narrow five-point win in the team race.
Valko was another three-time All-American for the Mountain Cats while also claiming two East Regional championships and finished with a 115-30 career record that included 48 falls.
The Windber, Pa. native was a national qualifier as a redshirt freshman in 2006-07 and then earned All-America honors with a fourth-place national tournament finish the next season.
Valko had an outstanding junior season at 126 pounds, putting together a 28-1 record with 18 falls. He was named East Region Wrestler of the Year and was the national runner-up after losing a double-overtime thriller in the finals.
Valko came back as a senior in 2009-10 and once again went 28-1. He won a second straight East Regional title, claimed the national championship with a 6-3 finals victory over a previously unbeaten opponent and ended his career by being named the NWCA Division II Wrestler of the Year.
Guerra was a four-time All-American and two-time national champion at Findlay who racked up a school-record 123 career wins.
He began his Findlay career in 2004-05 and secured All-America honors as a freshman with a fifth-place finish at 149 pounds before coming back the next season to capture the national title.
Guerra moved up to 157 pounds as a junior and continued to dominate, winning a second straight national championship while also being named the Midwest Regional Wrestler of the Year.
Guerra stayed at 157 for his final season and won 35 matches in making it back to the national finals before falling short in finishing as runner-up. He was inducted into the Findlay Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Uhl was a four-time All-American for the Roughnecks and finished fourth on Findlay’s all-time wins list with 113 career victories while also collecting 28 career falls.
He placed sixth in the national tournament at 125 pounds as a freshman in 2003-04 and then moved up to 133 the following season, going 31-11 and knocking off the No. 1-ranked individual in the finals to capture the national championship.
Findlay hosted the national tournament in 2006 and Uhl again made the 133-pound finals only to lose a thrilling 9-7 decision in finishing as runner-up to end a 30-7 season.
Uhl went 28-8 and finished sixth in the national tournament as a senior to earn his fourth straight All-America honor. He was also a four-time Academic All-American for the Roughnecks.
Nelson is in his 22nd season as head coach at Findlay and has constantly kept the Roughnecks among the top Division II programs in the country.
He has nearly 180 dual wins at UF and has coached 11 national champions – three in NAIA and eight in Division II. Nelson has tutored one three-time national champion (Waylon Lowe) and a pair of two-time winners (Antonio Guerra and Quantres Bates).
The Roughnecks have had 40 Division II All-Americans under Nelson’s guidance. He is a two-time Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year winner and was named the Midwest Region and NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 2012.
Nelson helped bring the Division II national tournament to Findlay in 2006, which was the first national championship event ever hosted by the university. He travels frequently throughout the Midwest in the off-season to speak at various wrestling camps and clinics.