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Gwinnett puts three in wrestling HOF

NORCROSS — In the 1970s, Gary Humphries suggested Duluth High School start a wrestling program. The next day, the sport he knew very little about entered his life.

"I was told we're going to start wrestling. I said good 'Who is going to coach it?,'" Humphries said. "He said you are. He reached in his back pocket and handed me a book on how to wrestle. That's how I started. Once I started, it became a challenge to me."

Humphries, a retired Gwinnett County teacher and coach, had to learn about the sport from scratch — from the rules and scoring to technique and terminology.

He never imagined he would spend more than 30 years in the sport, collecting more than 100 wins as a coach and refereeing for nearly a decade.

Humphries was one of the six members, including three from Gwinnett, that was inducted into the Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Sunday at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast.

"I still have to pinch myself. What did I do to be among these guys?," Humphries said. "It's beyond my wildest imagination. Forty years ago if they told me I was doing this, I would have said you're crazy."

Humphries was inducted into the hall of fame along with the late Jay Gassman from Berkmar, Parkview grad Rick Hennebaul, former Etowah and Sequoyah coach Bob Eddy, Druid Hills grad Nick Janoulis and Lakeside-DeKalb grad John Kalvelage.

After starting the program at Duluth, Humphries, served as an assistant at Berkmar and Parkview and was the head coach at North Gwinnett (1997-00) and Norcross (2000-05). He compiled a 162-102 career record. Humphries, who was an assistant on Norcross' state championship football team last season, has served as an official the last eight years.

"Wrestling is a family. To take someone form the outside and embrace him and get me to where I am, is truly a family. I appreciate it," Humphries said.

Gassman was posthumously inducted into the hall of fame and his sons Jim and David accepted the honor on his behalf. Jim Gassman, who is now the head coach at Mountain View, spent the last week talking to former Berkmar wrestlers about his father.

"The overall theme wasn't about the wins and successes, it was how their lives were changed in a positive manner," Gassman said.

The late Gassman coached at Berkmar from 1977-88. He compiled a 112-12 record, which included 10 Gwinnett County championships, six region titles and 10 top 10 finishes at the state meet.

"He would not only take the elite kid, that everyone wants to focus on, but not the elite kid," Berkmar assistant coach Don Barnett said. "He was able to take that kid and bring the best out of him no matter what level that kid was at."

Hennebaul is a 1984 Parkview grad where he was a state runner-up. He's been an official for 27 years will join his father Walter and brother Bud in the hall of fame.

It's the first time a father and his two sons have been inducted into the hall fame, according to Mike Clair of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"I don't know if I'm qualified, but I'm really honored to be in the hall of fame," Hennebaul said.