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Wrestling Hall of Fame Distinguished Member biography - Josiah Henson



Olympic bronze medalist and international wrestling leader Josiah Henson, who now resides in Tulsa, Okla., has been elected as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Josiah Henson joins his older brother Stanley Henson, a three-time NCAA champion, as a Distinguished Member.

Henson was a champion wrestler on the college and the international levels, one of the world's best international wrestling referees and a leader within the U.S. wrestling community for a half a century. He is being honored for his overall impact on the sport of wrestling in a variety of ways.

Henson competed for the U.S. Naval Academy, where he went undefeated from 1941-1944. He was a two time EIWA champion, capturing the respected "Eastern" titles in 1943 and 1944. There were no NCAA Championships in wrestling during World War II, so Henson did not have an opportunity for a collegiate national title.

He became one of the nation's best freestyle wrestlers, and won a bronze medal at 139 pounds at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. Henson was one of four U.S. wrestlers to win a medal during the Helsinki Olympics. He was the 1952 AAU National champion in freestyle, competing for the Armed Forces team.

After his competitive career ended, Henson turned his efforts toward officiating on the international level. He achieved a number of milestones as a wrestling referee. In 1956, he became the first American to qualify as a FILA International referee and work at the Olympic Games, in Melbourne, Australia. In 1968, he became the first American to work as a Mat Chairman for wrestling at an Olympic Games, in Mexico City, Mexico. Henson also produced the first English translation version of the FILA International Wrestling Rules for use in the United States.

Henson served in a number of leadership positions within the U.S. wrestling and Olympic community. He was the Chairman of U.S. Wrestling within the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1964 and 1968. Henson served as the Chef de Mission of the IX Pan American Games, held in 1967 in Winnipeg, Canada. He also served as the president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) from 1980-1984.

Henson received the FILA Gold Star in 1963, only the second American to receive this major international honor. He was named Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year in 1958. He received the FILA Centennial Award in 1996. Henson was elected to the Helms Hall of Fame in 1958 and the AAU Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2003, Wrestling USA magazine presented him with its Master of Wrestling Award.

In addition to his other wrestling activities, Henson was the Founder and Director of Henson Company, a major wrestling products company that is now known as Brute Wrestling. As a youth, Henson attended Tulsa Central High School, where he was a star on the wrestling team.

Josiah Henson had a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, serving as a Captain. He was a Navy pilot, with over 400 carrier landings from 1941-1969. He is a decorated war veteran, who was honored with a Presidential Commendation. He fought in the legendary battle of Surigao Straits, considered to be the largest sea battle in history.

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