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|Sharon Dowden named USA Wrestling Woman of the Year|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Sharon Dowden of Indianapolis, Ind., a grassroots leader on the state and national levels, has been named Woman of the Year by USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States. This award recognizes an outstanding woman for her contributions to the sport of wrestling.
"It is an honor to receive this award," said Dowden. "I am basically a grassroots person and have worked for the past 25 years toward building a quality program for the kids at the state and regional level. My motto has always been, 'Do it for the Kids.'"
Dowden has been active with the Indiana State Wrestling Association (ISWA) for decades in many capacities. She began her involvement in the sport in 1981, when her youngest sons began competing.
"Two of my sons attended a wrestling clinic and decided they wanted to compete. We didn't have a club in our area, at the time, so my husband Mike and I started one," said Dowden. "I didn't know much about wrestling but I loved the kids and came to understand and respect the sport. So, I became the club mom, attending practices, printing up schedules, and accompanying kids almost every Saturday. That led to Friday night sleepovers at the Dowden's and hauling as many kids as possible to tournaments. Sometimes Mike and I drove two vehicles because they wouldn't all fit in our station wagon."
An incident at a wrestling tournament a few years later helped Dowden to decide to make a full commitment as a volunteer leader.
"I became upset when a young person, working the time clock on my son's mat, was paying little attention to the match," said Dowden. "I questioned the official as to why they were not utilizing adults. That official was Jan Hesser. His reply was, 'There are never enough adult volunteers. If more people like you would volunteer we wouldn't have this problem. So, Mrs. Dowden you decide. You can either become part of the solution or remain part of the problem.' That was a turning point for me."
She served as the ISWA membership director from 1986-2003. When she started as membership director, Indiana had 3,600 wrestlers and 40 clubs. To date, the ISWA has grown to over 8,900 athletes, 800 coaches and 175 member clubs.
She is currently serving as Director of Services, and Web Master for the ISWA. She is an Associate Pairing Master in Indiana and a USA Wrestling P3 Pairer.
In 1997, she assisted in forming USA Wrestling's Central Region. She served on the Local Organizing Committee for the 2003 World Team Trials and the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, successful national events held in Indianapolis.
She has focused on improving communication within the ISWA, and is the publisher of the annual publication, the Indiana Amateur Wrestling News.
She has also worked on developing the folkstyle program for the ISWA. She was a leader in the decision of the ISWA to switch from the AAU to USA Wrestling many years ago.
Dowden has been inducted into the Indiana Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, and received the 1997 ISWA John Hurrle Award. She is married to Mike Dowden, the Indiana State Chairperson, a member of the Junior Olympic Wrestling Committee as well as USA Wrestling's Board of Directors.
All of her involvement in wrestling has been based upon the quest to share quality information with wrestling families and to provide more opportunities for young people to participate in USA Wrestling programs.
"Although I realize the importance of involvement at the national and Olympic level, my passion is the grassroots level of wrestling. We need people who are still in the trenches. Without them, we tend to lose touch with why we all began this journey in the first place," said Dowden.
Dowden will be recognized and received her award at ceremonies during the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals and Accelerade Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D. in July.
PAST USA WRESTLING WOMAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2006 - Sharon Dowden
2005 - Kim Martori-Wickey
2004 - Patricia Miranda
2003 - Kristie Marano
2002 - Pat Short
2001 - Paula McGahee
2000 - Sandy Stevens
1999 - Sue Siar
1998 - Nancy Schultz
1997 - Tricia Saunders