Renville native Bill Schmidt has been selected to be inducted into the 2020 National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It’s another honor for the wrestling icon who is also a member of the Winona Wrestling, Augsburg (College) Athletic and Bartelma (MWCA) Wrestling halls of fame.
Schmidt – the son of Frederick and Alice Schmidt – grew up on a farm south of Renville along with brother Rick and sisters Susan, Ellen and Cathy.
His father passed away from leukemia when he was just an eighth grader.
While helping his brother Rick on the farm, Bill played football, baseball and participated in wrestling. He was a football captain and participated in wrestling from 1968-72.
As a six-year starter in wrestling, he was never pinned throughout his high-school career, was fifth at the state tournament as a junior and was the Minnesota state champion at 145 pounds in 1972 (in the old one-class system).
Schmidt was the first individual state champion in any sport from the 212 Conference. He credits his Renville High School Coach – Jim Phillips – and teammate Paul Olson as being responsible for the success he enjoyed during his high school career.
Schmidt would then attend Augsburg College and wrestled for legendary head coach John Grygelko who may best be described as a character with character.
He was a three-time MIAC Conference champion and a three-time NAIA All-American, placing fourth, fifth and second at nationals at 150 pounds in his first three collegiate seasons.
He was unable to wrestle as a senior due to a neck injury suffered while wrestling in Japan and Korea. He still served as a captain and was voted team MVP by his teammates for his final season.
The math major graduated from Augsburg and was then hired to teach and coach wrestling in Mosinee, Wis. After two years, he and wife Jill moved to Winona where he taught mathematics and served as head wrestling coach and assistant cross country coach.
With Schmidt at the helm the wrestling program produced 24 state qualifiers and 12 place winners along with one state champion in 12 years. He was voted Minnesota Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1989.
Schmidt had to confess that much of the success gleaned by Winona wrestlers in the 1980s was due to an outstanding wrestling coach by the name of Pappas. It was a sincere thrill for Bill to watch his wrestlers compete at the next level and at one point, Augsburg had five Winona wrestlers in the starting line-up.
He also took pride in seeing many of his wrestlers go on to coach wrestling at various levels around the state.
After retiring from coaching, he served as assistant MWCA director under Bartelma Hall of Famer Roger Gorham for nine years and then as executive director for eight years before collaborating with Bartelma Hall of Fame chair Steve Ricard and heading up Mr. Minnesota as well as head and assistant coach of the year committees.
Schmidt has continued to coach youth wrestling along with youth softball and baseball throughout the past 30 years.
Schmidt and wife, Jill, have served on the Winona High School football chain gang for the past 38 years with son Sam and daughter Sundra.
The duo was recently honored with the Ashley for the Arts Humanitarian Award for their many hours of volunteer work with the youth of the Winona community.
They have been blessed to have both of their children and families within a stone’s throw of their home as Sundra teaches English and Spanish at Winona Senior High, while her husband serves as a park and recreation assistant director in Winona. They have two children, Avriella and August.
Samuel, four houses down, teaches mathematics at Winona State, while wife, Jessica, is a Kindergarten teacher in the Winona District. They also have three children, Sophie, Graham and Lucy.