Ben­tonville’s Desler set for Hall of Fame honor

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - PAUL BOYD

BEN­TONVILLE — Bill Desler started a wrestling club in Ben­tonville in 2005, hop­ing to give his son, Nathan, the chance to com­pete in a sport he grew up lov­ing.

He did much more than that, be­com­ing one of the pi­o­neers of the sport in Arkansas.

The ninth Arkansas State Wrestling Tour­na­ment re­cently was com­pleted with Ben­tonville atop the medal stand in the Class 6A-7A divi­sion. That gives the Tigers five state ti­tles and two run­ner-up fin­ishes, in­clud­ing two state ti­tles be­fore the sport be­came sanc­tioned by the Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion.

Desler was the Ben­tonville head coach un­til this sea­son when he stepped down to take a role as an as­sis­tant for health rea­sons.

He and long­time Lit­tle Rock Catholic coach Paul Mam­marelli will be in­ducted

into the Na­tional Wrestling Hall of Fame Arkansas chap­ter for their life­time ser­vice to the sport at the sixth an­nual ban­quet Satur­day evening at the Univer­sity of the Ozarks in Clarksville. They will be the sixth and sev­enth re­cip­i­ents of the honor for the Arkansas chap­ter.

“We moved to Ben­tonville about 14 years ago, and they didn’t have wrestling,” Desler said. “I told my wife we’re gonna have to ei­ther move just into Ok­la­homa or just in­side Mis­souri be­cause Nathan was gonna get a shot at wrestling. He was about three and a half then; stuff hap­pened, and I ended up start­ing a club here.”

Don Schuler, whose two sons com­peted for Ben­tonville, said there’s no ques­tion about Desler’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sport, which has grown to al­most 500 in­di­vid­u­als and 50 teams at this year’s state tour­na­ment.

“I con­sider Bill the found­ing fa­ther of wrestling in Arkansas,” Schuler said. “I con­sider Bill as much a part of that ta­pes­try as any­body.”

Schuler said Desler pushed to have Ben­tonville wrestlers com­pete in tour­na­ments in Ok­la­homa and Mis­souri — states with rich wrestling his­tory — in or­der to give the in­ex­pe­ri­enced young­sters the chance to see a higher level of com­pe­ti­tion. He also helped es­tab­lish a youth club to get them started at a young age.

“It’s one of the rea­sons

Ben­tonville has been so suc­cess­ful,” said Schuler, who quickly be­came an ad­vo­cate for the sport af­ter meet­ing Desler.

Desler’s photograph and bi­og­ra­phy rec­og­niz­ing his con­tri­bu­tion to wrestling will be in the avail­able in the state chap­ter area of the Na­tional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in Still­wa­ter, Okla.

He is hum­bled by the honor but said the sport has done plenty for him, too.

“It’s re­ally helped me in most as­pects of my life in the fact the dis­ci­pline that’s in­volved and the re­la­tion­ships that are built,” Desler said. “You think there are other coaches much more de­serv­ing. The coaches who have been put in the Hall of Fame so far, I look up to them.

“They are guys who have been in wrestling. Their life

is wrestling. Guys like Randy Steen, he’s of­fi­ci­ated all over the world.”

Steen, who was the Arkansas chap­ter’s first Life­time Ser­vice hon­oree in 2013, said there’s no ques­tion Desler is de­serv­ing of the honor. He coached with Desler for a year at Ben­tonville, then against him at Rogers Her­itage.

“Bill’s been in­valu­able to wrestling in the state of Arkansas,” Steen said. “He’s been here since the be­gin­ning, started a club in Ben­tonville and hosted the first state tour­na­ment. He’s won sev­eral state ti­tles. Through thick and thin, Bill’s al­ways had a good pro­gram and been will­ing to give ev­ery­thing he’s had to the sport of wrestling.”


NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/PAUL BOYD

Ben­tonville as­sis­tant wrestling coach Bill Desler (right) talks to his son, Nathan, be­fore one of his matches in the Class 6A-7A Arkansas High School State Wrestling tour­na­ment in Lit­tle Rock. Desler will be hon­ored for his “Life­time Ser­vice to Wrestling” in the Na­tional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Still­wa­ter, Okla.

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