New Jersey Night of Champions
Inside a packed Hilton Short Hills Ballroom, the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Sport of Wrestling co-mingled to provide an unforgettable experience at the NJ Night of Champions on Saturday, October 20.
The overall theme of this special evening was celebrating the Olympic relationship between America and China.
After a boisterous cocktail party, an authentic Olympic torch from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was the focus of a back and forth auction between wrestling supporters David and Kathy Welch and National Wrestling Hall of Fame Distinguished Member Stan Dziedzic. In the end it was Welch, the former Indiana University wrestler, who prevailed in the auction.
Soon after, the heart and soul of the evening began. With seven members of his historic 1972 Munich U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team gathered on the stage as witnesses, Head Coach Bill Farrell was presented with a USA Wrestling Lifetime Achievement Award.
Once the team was seated on the stage, a video highlighting Farrell’s athletic career and his business and personal achievements was shown. Clips from the 1972 Olympic television broadcast appeared with Ken Kraft and Frank Gifford doing the commentary. Concluding the video was Farrell’s appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in which Carson and Farrell discussed the Olympic freestyle wrestling team’s incredible performance in Munich. They displayed hilarious physical comedy as Farrell taught Carson the finer points of the sport.
After accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award from USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender, Farrell took the podium and delivered a stirring and emotional acceptance speech.
First he related his wife Lorraine’s fears about flying in the helicopter provided to bring the Farrell family to NJ from his home in Long Island. Accompanying the Farrell’s were daughter Leigh and son Kyle. Then he recognized his friends and business partners in attendance before focusing on the team he will be forever linked with.
The 1972 Olympic Freestyle team had a remarkable performance. The United States had mot won wrestling gold medals since the 1960 Rome Olympics. Under Farrell’s guidance, Dan Gable, Wayne Wells and Ben Peterson won Gold Medals, John Peterson and the late Rick Sanders won silver medals and the late Chris Taylor won a bronze medal. This team captured the attention of the Olympic family with its success and personality.
Members of this historic team in attendance were Sergio Gonzalez, Dan Gable, Wayne Wells, John Peterson and Wayne Baughman (Greco-Roman), plus coaches Bill Weick and Jim Peckham and official Vince Zuaro.
There were many other special moments during this evening of celebration.,
According to Peter Ueberroth, the U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman and former Los Angeles Olympic Games Organizing Committee Chairman , when China refused to join the 1984 Olympic Games boycott it was a pivotal moment for the LA Games and for the survival of the Olympic movement.
The organizers of the NJ Night of Champions felt a good way to celebrate the Olympic relationship between the USA and China was to bring back 1984 Olympians from the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Representing the Peoples Republic of China at the event was “Jenny” Lang Ping, a member of the 1984 Gold Medal Olympic Volleyball Team.
Representing the 1984 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Teams were athletes Mark Fuller, Bobby Weaver, Randy Lewis, Andy Rein, Steve Fraser, Dan Chandler, Ed Banach and Bruce Baumgartner. Representing the late Dave Schultz was his wife Nancy Schultz. The head coach of the freestyle team, Dan Gable, and the assistant coach of the Greco-Roman team, Floyd Winter, also joined the team. Hall of Fame Official Vince Zuaro, who worked the 1984 Games, was also on hand to join the celebration.
Ambassador Bin Ho, from the Peoples Republic of China’s New York Consulate, received an award commemorating China’s decision to join the 1984 Olympic Games.
Olympisim can help create understanding in the world. A great example of this is the Far Hills Country Day School, a local elementary school that has pioneered the study of Mandarin in its early childhood international language studies. This school was selected as a local benefactor from the event.
The Far Hills Country Day begins the study of Mandarin culture in pre-school and continues through the sixth grade. The school is also celebrating Physical Education during this Olympic year and will apply the funds received from the Night of Champions to support the construction its new Physical Education facility.
Far Hills Country Day School’s Head of School Jayne Geiger addressed the audience and spoke about the origination of the Mandarin program. She explained how special it was for the school to be touched by the Olympic Movement in this way, especially with the Beijing Olympic Games imminent. Several tables at the event were filled with teachers, parents and supporters from the school, and the whole ballroom erupted with applause as Geiger and the Chinese Ambassador unveiled a plaque that will be permanently attached to the new physical education facility commemorating the event.
Images of the event can be viewed by going to:
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