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Wrestling clan helps run state tourney

Bud Hennebaul and his family have always been involved in wrestling.

His father, Walt, started youth wrestling programs in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Bud and his two younger brothers wrestled at Parkview High School, his sister was a wrestlerette and his mom drove the team bus.

So when Bud Hennebaul became director of the state wrestling tournament three years ago, it was no surprise that he roped his family in to help.

"I can't keep my family from wrestling," said Bud, who will be inducted in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame later this year.

There will be 1,680 high school wrestlers from all over Georgia competing this week at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, and the Hennebaul family will be the driving force in making it run smoothly.

From Bud's immediate family to his brother-in-law and nephews, they all play a role in the traditional state wrestling tournament.

"I've always been involved with wrestling since Bud was a baby," Walt said. "We all get involved pretty much in the sport in different ways. It's something I really look forward to doing each year."

As vice president of the Atlanta Takedown Association, Bud helped bring all five classifications under one roof for the state tournament. He ran the idea by his parents to see what they thought and if they could help.

"First, I told my parents to see what they thought," Bud said. "Of course, my dad is so optimistic about life he was going to do it. My mom was ready to do it and I don't know if the rest of the family had a choice."

They all agreed in some fashion to help run the largest wrestling tournament in the country in terms of participants.

"I think he just assumed he was going to get our help," Walt said with a laugh. "This sport has always been in our family."

Walt Hennebaul, who is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, was one of three people to start the Pennsylvania Elementary Wrestling League. When the family moved to Georgia in the late 1970s, he started Parkview's youth wrestling program.

Walt now serves as the assistant tournament director and works with Bud and Atlanta Takedown Association president Gary Schaefer to keep the tournament running smoothly.

"Nobody works harder than Gary," Bud said. "A lot of people just don't know how much he does."

All three of Walt's sons had outstanding wrestling careers. Bud was Parkview's first state champion in 1978, Jerry won state in 1982 and Rick was a state runner-up in 1984.

At the state meet this week, Jerry will coordinate the table workers who keep score at each mat. Rick will be refereeing matches, which he has done for almost 20 years.

But it's not just the men in the Hennebaul family who are involved. The women play a vital role as well. Bud's mother Marianne, who drove the Parkview team bus to meets from 1977 to 1994, runs the hospitality room for workers and coaches. Bud's sister, Terri, who was a wrestlerette at Parkview, also helps in the hospitality room.

"When I stopped driving the team bus I thought I got out of it," Marianne said. "Then the tournament came to Gwinnett and here I am again. It's really a great sport and I enjoy being involved with it."

Terri's husband, Mark Smith, will sing the National Anthem before the finals Saturday night and her son, Mark Jr., will help run errands.

Bud's other sister, Patty, also will have her son Ricky helping run errands around the Arena. Even Bud's two children, Jay and Justin, help out by doing tasks for the table workers.

The Hennebaul family's desire to help with wrestling goes back to Bud's uncle Fred, who was paralyzed when he was put in a full nelson - now an illegal move.

"He was kind of my hero even though he was younger," Walt said.

The move broke Fred's neck and left him a quadriplegic. He lived for another 17 years and died at the age of 33.

"My dad had a decision right then that his kids were going to wrestle and that we would give back to the sport," Bud said.

They'll do that this week the best way they can. As a family, under one roof, working together in Fred's honor in the top wrestling event in Georgia.

"I think in a lot of cases we do honor him," Walt said. "We honor him a lot individually. He's always in our minds."

SideBar: If you go

What: Traditional state wrestling tournament

When: Today to Saturday

Where: Arena at

Gwinnett Center