Rare opportunity for UW-W wrestling

Lee Kemp, a former three-time wrestling world champion, has been welcomed by the Warhawk staff as a complementary coach.

Kemp, 54, has been inducted into both the Wisconsin and American wrestling halls of fame and is widely regarded as one of the best wrestlers of his generation.

At UW-Madison, Lee Kemp completed his college career with a record of 143-6-1 and 47 falls. He had an 87-match winning streak and a 103-match unbeaten streak. Photo submitted

At his age, most wrestling coaches would be content to give advice on strategy and technique from the sidelines, but thanks to a consistent, vigorous workout schedule, Kemp is still able to compete with college wrestlers.

“I wasn’t sure if Lee wanted to spar with our guys or not at his age, but when I gave him the opportunity he partnered right up, and it was pretty clear that he’s still got it,” head coach Tim Fader said.

Division-III athletes do not often get the opportunity to be taught by and compete with a  legend.

In wrestling terms, Fader said having Kemp partner up with his athletes is similar to “having Brett Favre toss around the football with our guys at Perkins Stadium.”

Kemp became a successful businessman after his wrestling career, but recently decided he wanted to get back into the wrestling community by coaching upcoming wrestlers and helping to promote the sport.

“I know it’s a cliché thing to say, but I really wanted to give back to the sport that taught me how to succeed and gave me so many opportunities,” Kemp said.

Kemp was helping to train junior wrestlers for a while, but then he decided to give Coach Fader, whom Kemp knew from various wrestling events, a call. He asked Fader if the Warhawk wrestling staff could come up with a paid position in which Kemp could give the team members some one-on-one tutelage.

Fader thought the situation was “too good to be true,” but immediately got to work, coming up with a couple fundraisers that would allow his team this awesome opportunity to learn from the best.

“Lee brings such a wealth of experience to the program. He was the best wrestler in the world, and having that experience in the room adds to an already great coaching staff,” returning NCAA Tournament qualifier, junior Reid Dickerson said.

Kemp was drawn to wrestling because of its individuality. He said wrestling more closely resembles life than other sports, because you cannot rely on other people for your own success.

“It really goes both ways,” Kemp said. “You can’t pass the ball to Michael Jordan to make the last shot and then share in the team’s glory, but you also can’t pass blame onto teammates if you fail.”

For that reason, among others, Kemp wanted to continue promoting and giving back to the sport that gave him so much success. The need to give back is what led Kemp to call Fader and ask if the team wanted his help.

Dickerson and Fader both were excited about the prospect of having Kemp involved in the program.

They said having a former world champion on their side will allow the team to continue improving faster than ever.

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