Life as a wrestler
Before being told he was not cut out for basketball, Dave Bennett had no interest in wrestling. But a visit in the P.E. office with the basketball coach at Jamestown High School in 1959 began one of the most diverse and decorated wrestling career...
Before being told he was not cut out for basketball, Dave Bennett had no interest in wrestling.
But a visit in the P.E. office with the basketball coach at Jamestown High School in 1959 began one of the most diverse and decorated wrestling careers ever.
"That coach informed me that basketball was not going to work out very well for me and said I should look at (wrestling)," Bennett said. "I knew nothing about it. It hadn't even crossed my mind."
But from the fateful meeting more than 55 years ago, spawned a career that came full circle last weekend when the Jamestown native was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.
"I just fell in love with it and I've never been out of the sport since," said Bennett, who graduated from JHS in 1961 and then wrestled at Jamestown College.
Bennett's résumé is as long as it is impressive.
Now 72 and living with his wife Georgia in Boise, Idaho, Bennett was on staff for USA Wrestling for 32 World Championships and six Olympics, working side by side with some of the legendary names in wrestling.
"I've been lucky," said Bennett deflecting praise. "I never once applied for a job, they always just came to me. When you find something you love and you're as fortunate as I've been, you don't have much to complain about."
After graduating from Jamestown High School in 1961, Bennett competed at Jamestown College for one of his heroes-coach Don Klostreich.
"Donnie was just somebody I wanted to be around," Bennett said.
After Klostreich moved on, Bennett transferred to Pacific University in Oregon to finish his wrestling career. His coaching career was yet to blossom, but for good reason. He completed his doctorate in optometry, working as an optometrist before selling his practice in 1997 to become a fulltime staff member for USA Wrestling.
Being an eye doctor was a perfect compliment as his coaching career commenced.
"I was working for myself. I was my own boss," said Bennett, commonly known as "Doc" in wrestling circles. "I could make my own schedule. I'd quit seeing patients at 2, then head to the high school."
From 1969-90, Bennett was a volunteer, assistant and head wrestling coach. As a head coach in Washington, Colorado and Ohio, his teams posted a dual record of 137-27, and he helped 40 wrestlers to state championships.
"I really enjoyed working with those high school kids and those coaches. We had so many hard-working, talented and dedicated kids. It was an amazing experience," Bennett said.
In 2003, Bennett coached the U.S. senior men's freestyle team to the Pan American Championships team title. He remained in that role until retiring as USA Wrestling's National Developmental Freestyle coach in 2009.
In 2008, he was awarded with the Doc Counsilman Award-the United State Olympic Committee's Coach of the Year. He was the first and remains the only wrestling coach to receive the prestigious award.
But coaching was only part of his contribution to wrestling.
Bennett has produced over 40 television shows that were broadcast among other places on ABC, FOX, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU.
Additionally, his work creating and producing instructional coaching and officiating videos are well-known worldwide. He's produced more than 40 such videos in his career.
"Those kinds of things, the videos and instructionals, weren't really available previously," Bennett said. "We started that stuff in the early 80s with just one- and two-camera shots. We were hoping to get it on a free channel, anything ... just get it broadcasted somewhere.
"It eventually led to these things for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ABC, and I was able to work with some incredibly talented people-real cutting edge stuff."
Bennett is retired now, but remains active in wrestling, of course. His latest project was developing a new format for coaches education online at matadvantage.com.
He has not been back in Jamestown for "25 or 30 years" but expressed a desire to return and conduct a wrestling camp in his hometown. He spoke highly of current University of Jamestown women's wrestling coach Tony DeAnda, dating back to when the two were together with USA Wrestling.
His memories of home are fond, including meeting his wife of 52 years Georgia (Brown) of Devils Lake when both were students at Jamestown College.
"I couldn't have done it without her," Doc said. "She's an amazing woman."
The 1959 team he wrestled on was the first ever at Jamestown High School, although it was a learning experience, he said.
"We didn't really have any idea what we were doing, but it was fun. I loved it," he said. "It was kinda ugly early on. It was brand new to us. The teams in the western part of the state-Bismarck, Williston, Dickinson-they all had a jump on us.
"We were pretty green. We took our lumps, but we kept working hard and learning."
For Bennett, that's what his journey has always been about.
"That's really what I've always tried to do in every aspect of life and that's I've never stopped learning," he said. "Anybody that thinks they've got it all figured out has it a little backwards, I think."