MOORE — John Finn was asked to keep his remarks to a few minutes. But just like the other six honorees who were inducted into the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Sunday, that turned out to be impossible.
It wasn’t that Finn had a long speech. It was the emotions that came out as he looked back on his 27-year coaching career that slowed him down.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Finn said. “You do something for 30 years, you really wonder if you made a difference in people’s lives and if it’s really worth all the stuff you did. Then you get a phone call and you find out you’re being inducted. And it just kind of validates that everything you did is worth the reason why you did it.”
All seven of this year’s honorees were inducted with Lifetime Service to Wrestling Awards, an honor given annually to those coaches, officials and contributors who have given a minimum of 20 years of service to the sport of wrestling, to their communities, and to the young people they have coached, taught and inspired. That defines Finn’s entire career at Westmoore and beyond.
“It’s pretty awesome having a hall of fame dad,” John Finn Jr. said of his father. “Considering we are a wrestling family I can now say my dad is a hall of famer. He taught me everything in wrestling. It’s really a great honor. I’m proud to say he’s my dad and wouldn’t trade him for anybody else.”
The elder Finn was joined by Dr. Tom Allen, Wilton Conine, Stan Deardeuff, Danny Kendle, Mike Kirk and Eddie Sullivan at a banquet and induction ceremony in Oklahoma City at the Jim Thorpe Museum. Each received a plaque and a green jacket to commemorate their special honor.
But the biggest honor for Finn was having his family, friends and former wrestlers on hand to share in his accomplishment.
“So cool is seeing these guys that came back,” Finn said. “I got a chance to see the first three state champions I ever had came here tonight. Just to see these guys all be such good fathers and good husbands. That’s what makes me proud. The winning didn’t mean anything now. But hoping the things you did and told them made a difference in their lives, that’s the most important.”
Before he got into coaching, Finn capped off a collegiate wrestling career as an All-American on the University of Central Oklahoma’s 1979 NAIA championship team. He then began his coaching career assisting coach Byron Graham at Edmond Memorial High. He left Edmond in 1983 to take over the head coaching position at Chickasha High, where he produced two individual state champions and nine state place winners in four years.
Finn decided to return to Moore where he became the first wrestling coach at Westmoore High in 1988. He built the program into a powerhouse that produced 11 individual state champions, 32 state place winners, 11 district team titles, a state runner-up finish in 2000 and runner-up finishes at the state duals in 2000 and 2002.
While his success on the wrestling mat was impressive, Finn said having his sons turn out to be good men was his most important job. All five of them were on hand to present him with his hall of fame plaque.
“Everybody knows our kids are great kids,” Finn said. “Not only just in the athletic accomplishments. But we’ve been blessed. When we had kids we didn’t care if any of them where athletes. We had the expectation for them to be just the best at what they do. But most people would love to have one All-Stater. We’re lucky enough to have three kids who were double-all-Staters. That stuff is just not done. You don’t take that for granted around our house. But the most important thing is to be a good person.”
That’s the same lessons Finn tried to impart to his wrestlers. His induction into the hall of fame is validation that he had the right approach.
“It blows me away,” Finn said. “It’s beyond anything. I got a chance to live a dream, and do something I love doing. Not making a lot of money, but not caring about that. But still having a great wife, great kids. I never had one day where I didn’t want to go to work. You cant judge that in money.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com