Les Gutches to be inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame, June 5-6

STILLWATER, Okla. - The National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum will host its 33rd annual Honors Weekend culminating in the Induction Ceremony on June 5-6 in Stillwater, Okla. Honored will be the Class of 2009 inductees in the categories of Distinguished Member, Outstanding American, Order of Merit, Medal of Courage and Lifetime Achievement for Officials.

Les Gutches from Oregon State Univ. will be inducted as a Distinguished Member. A Distinguished Member is a wrestler who has achieved extraordinary success in national and/or international competition, a coach who has demonstrated great leadership in the profession and has compiled an outstanding record, a contributor whose long-term activities have substantially enhanced the development and advancement of the sport, or any combination of the above qualifications.

Those seeking to interview Gutches during the weekend by phone can contact Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling at 719-659-9637 cell.

Les Gutches - Distinguished Member

From the time he was a very young wrestler, it was clear that Les Gutches was destined for greatness.

As a Cadet, the youngest age group to compete internationally, Gutches won a national Greco-Roman title and a silver medal in the World Championships. It was only a portent of what was to come. From the time he stepped on the mat as a Cadet until he retired from competition, Gutches won a national championship in either freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling in every age group-Cadet, Junior, Espoir, University and Senior-and became the first competitor in USA Wrestling history to do so. He competed in World Championships in four different age groups, adding an Espoir bronze medal to his collection in 1993.

A three-time state champion for South Medford High School in Oregon, Gutches wrestled collegiately for Oregon State University. At OSU, he compiled a record of 134-10 and earned All-America honors three times, finishing fifth in the 1994 NCAA Championships, then following with back-to-back titles. In his final two years, only once was an opponent able to score a takedown against him. After 69 straight victories, he won both the NCAA Outstanding Wrestler award and the Hodge Trophy as the best collegiate wrestler of 1996.

Between his junior and senior seasons, Gutches reached the finals of both the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials, losing to former World freestyle champion and defending Olympic champion Kevin Jackson. A year later, he defeated Jackson in a bitterly contested best-of-three series to make the 1996 Olympic team. Gutches finished seventh in front of the Atlanta home crowd.

A less welcoming audience couldn't keep him from reaching his dream in 1997. Competing in Krasnoyarsk, deep in the heart of Russia, Gutches won the gold medal in his first World Championship. After a seventh-place World finish in 1998, Gutches again reached the podium in 1999, winning a World bronze.

Although he won his fifth-straight U.S. National freestyle title in 2000, a back injury hampered his quest for a second Olympics and he retired shortly afterward.

For his stellar performance at every level and in every style of wrestling, Les Gutches is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.