WILMINGTON – Rodger O. Borror Middle School gymnasium was a fitting place to honor a former NCAA national champion Saturday afternoon.
It was in the same building that his national championship journey began in 1998.
Former Wilmington College wrestler Jimmy Wallace, who won the 2002 NCAA Division III National Championship, was honored prior to the Division II district finals in the very building where he first met his future collegiate coach, Jim Marsh.
Wallace will be inducted into the Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame March 10 at this year’s national championship tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
As a senior for Valley View, Wallace was competing in the Division II district tournament in Wilmington when he caught Marsh’s attention.
“Somebody said, ‘Hey, that’s a kid you should look at’,” Marsh said. “I said, ‘Well, he’s in the finals!’ And he throws Ty Morgan, who was a three-time state champion. He threw him and beat him. How in the world am I going to get this kid?
“You know what? It worked out. From then on, it was an amazing adventure.”
For Wallace, it took just one meeting with the Quakers coach to convince him to attend Wilmington.
“I wasn’t sure about my future at the time,” Wallace said. “I wasn’t sure about what I was doing or where I was going to go. To be honest with you, I talked to coach Marsh and that was it. He was there and I knew from the beginning that he had my best interests in mind.
“I came and visited the college and talked to Marsh a couple of times and that was it.”
Wallace had a tremendous amount of success at Wilmington College. He was a four-time NCAA All-American with a record of 129-9 during his four years as a Quaker. He was the Division III wrestler of the year in 2002 when he won the 152-pound national title.
“It’s really special,” Wallace said. “It’s bad to say, but I’d put it right up there … it’s like having a baby. To get to that national level and finally winning it, it’s just a dream come true.”
Marsh, now the athletic director at East Clinton, said those in the wrestling community around the country still remember Wallace.
“I just had a blast traveling the country with him,” Marsh said. “To this day, I can go to Iowa and they’ll know Jimmy Wallace.”
Marsh is proud of what his former student has accomplished.
“He’s deserving of everything,” Marsh said. “As great of a wrestler as Jimmy is, he’s even a better person. He’s someone I want around me for the rest of my life. I want him around kids. He’s just a great role model.”
Wallace is working with the next generation of wrestlers at his alma mater, Valley View. It’s an opportunity that Wallace cherishes.
“It means a ton,” Wallace said. “I’m just so glad I can give back to the sport and give back to the next generation. Somebody gave me a chance and I’m glad to do the same thing to other people. Every day I’m out there practicing with the kids, it’s a chance for me to give back. That’s an honor for me.”
Matt covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @mattsports.