At a fundraiser held in a bar near Midway Airport recently, wrestling moms, dads, aunts, friends and a three-time world champion shared pizza, meatballs and world-class encouragement for a quad squad of Illinois wrestlers headed to Szombathley, Hungary this week to compete in the World Championships.
All of it to help four Illinois wrestlers; Matt Rundell, Darius Henry, Sammy Brooks and Zane Richards, with the costs of the overseas trip.
Organized by Mike Rundell, father of Huskie wrestler Matt Rundell, who is headed to Hungary to compete,
the party hit a high note when Lee Kemp, 54, a three-time world champion, member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team and three-time national champion while at University of Wisconsin, gave the young wrestlers and the crowd words of wisdom.
"When you are there, you feel like you are respresenting your whole country," said Kemp, who is a now a nutritional consultant for Fitness Arts, a wellness company in Palatine. "With your USA wrestling uniform on, you know you have to do your best because on and off the mat, you represent the country in everything you do."
Kemp, who appears modest and humble, has a lifetime of victories to ponder, including the 1976 match when he beat Iowa legend Dan Gable 7-6.
"I started wrestling in ninth grade," said Kemp, an Ohio native. "I made varsity and then I won the state tournament the next two years at 138 and 145." From there he went to UW-Madison, where he also became a legend.
"Wrestling has been a sport that taught me about life and about disappointments," said Kemp, who went on to become the U.S. Olympics wrestling coach in 2008.
To sum up the night:
Attending the party: $50
Total raised for team: $2,000
Inspiration for life and wrestling: Priceless