Hall of Fame – 1991
The best kept secret since the attack on Pearl Harbor! Gene Barnhill is being inducted into the NSWCA Hall of Fame. It began with a phone call one evening last summer from Jean Pisasale inquiring about the formalities involved in nominating someone for the Hall of Fame. Once explained, an application was mailed to Susie Barnhill (a sneaky wife) and returned October 20, 1990. From then on the ball started rolling, gathering momentum as it went. Letters of endorsement came from UNO Coach Mike Denney, Northwest Principal Jack Hallstrom, Larry Snyder, Earley G. Smith; Northwest AD, Charles Rush, Jean Allen, Fred (Hall of Fame, ’82) and Jean Pisasale and John E. Christensen. In addition to several lengthy articles from the Omaha World-Herald concerning interviews amout this man’s program. Finally, in the spring of 1991, Mr. Barnhill was sent his official invitation to attend the NSWCA Hall of Fame Banquet in honor of his induction. Rumor has it if he had known of this ahead of time he would “try to cancel the whole affair”. We are pleased he is accepting this honor—he deserves it.
Attending Lincoln high School from 1955-1957 and picking up third place in State, Gene continued to be involved with wrestling serving as assistant at Northwest High School. He attended UN-L one year and realized that he was not cut out to continue a competitive wrestling career bu not wanting to give up a sport that he became hooked on has since 1970 volunteered his time coaching kids.
He was instrumental in starting the Greater Omaha Elementary Wrestling Association. He has coached little league wrestling for the past 20 years beginning the program through the YMCA which later became the Westside Wrestling Club which functions today with 75-100 boys yearly. They organize and sponsor the Westside Wrestling Club Freestyle Tournament held yearly for the past 15 years. The proceeds from that tournament go towards scholarships to UNO.
Concerned that the young men in the metropolitan area did not have enough background to assure them a spot on the high school team he started out with a few bosy in “basement wrestling”. From this meager beginning he now runs a full-fledged training camp for future high school grapplers. Constructing a building for his boys, he now has a clinic complex that provides facilities and training for boys that feed into some 13 area high schools.
Coach Barnhill has also been awarded the Nathan Hale Patriot Award in 1980, Federation Little League Coach of the Year, and Soldier of the Year “way back in the late ‘60’s” with his Army Reserve unit. His biggest thrills have come to him through benefits to others; his son John winning Mr. Nebraska AAU in 1987, and helping kids grow through wrestling. “Beyond the ingredients that go into wrestling, we try to teach the boys not to feel disappointed when they know they have done their best. We teach them to have pride in themselves.”