Five to be inducted into Midlands Hall of Fame including Matmen’s Seth Schwartz

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Five new members will be inducted into the Midlands Championships Hall of Fame on Saturday, it was announced.

Two current and former Illinois head coaches — Jim Heffernan and Mark Johnson — are among the inductees. Sam Samorian (long-time Midlands Championship administrator), Mike Allen (40-plus year wrestling referee), and Seth Schwartz (wrestling writer for Illinois Matmen and Amateur Wrestling News) round out the Class of 2017.

Heffernan, the head coach of the Fighting Illini since 2009, was a three-time Midlands champion as a collegiate wrestler for Iowa (’83, ’84, ’86). He never finished below second place at 150 lbs. With Illinois, he has helped lead his squad to one team Midlands championship — edging out Virginia Tech by two points in 2012.

Johnson, the head coach of Illinois prior to Heffernan, was a two-time NCAA All-American with Michigan, in addition to being a former Olympic wrestler. He placed three times at Midlands, finishing in second place with the Wolverines in 1976 (177 lbs.), sixth with Hawkeye WC in 1978 (177 lbs.), and second with Hawkeye WC in 1979 (190 lbs.). As head coach of the Fighting Illini from 1992-2009, he led Illinois to back-to-back-to-back Midlands championships (2003-05), including a dominating performance in 2004 that saw the Fighting Illini outscore next-closest Iowa by 11.5 points. Johnson is currently the CEO of Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign, Illinois.

Samorian, a native of Rockford, Illinois, has served the Midlands Championships for many years in an administration capacity and as an official. His wrestling credentials are manifest; a 2003 inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, a 2000 inductee to the Illinois State University Athletic Hall of Fame, and the 1980 Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) Official of the Year. He also acted as the Grand Marshal of the 1990 IHSA State Wrestling Tournament. He has officiated at all levels of competition — junior high, high school, and collegiate — including several NCAA Championships. He was one of the first ten Certified Wrestling Officials in Illinois and a founding member of the Mid-States Officials Association.

Allen, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, is a widely-respected college and high school official. He has officiated national wrestling tournaments in all five divisions, including 20-plus NCAA Division-I tournaments. A 2010 inductee to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Allen is the first African-American to officiate in the Iowa High School State Tournament and was been named Iowa Official of the Year three times. He now serves in a coordination role for officials for the Big Ten, among other conferences.

Schwartz, a 2017 nominee for IWCOA Newsman of the Year, is a long-tenured writer for Illinois Matmen and Amateur Wrestling News. He joins Tom Tomashek (Chicago Tribune and News Journal (Del.) Reporter) as the only two media members to be inducted into the Midlands Championships Hall of Fame.

The addition of these five members brings the grand total of the prestigious Midlands Championships Hall of Fame to 56 inductees. The induction ceremony will take place before the final session of the Championships on Saturday, Dec. 30, at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Director of Midlands Tim Cysewski will present the inductees with their Hall of Fame plaques at center mat.

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Written by Mike Bare

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