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|USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender re-elected to chair National Governing Body Council|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – During meetings held at the U.S. Olympic Assembly this past weekend, USA Wrestling’s Executive Director Rich Bender of Colorado Springs, Colo. was unanimously re-elected as the chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s National Governing Body (NGB) Council.
“We were pleased to learn that Rich Bender was selected to chair the NGB Council. His experience and his constructive approach to problem solving will serve the NGB Council and the U.S. Olympic Movement well as we prepare for Sochi and Rio,” said Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The mission of the NGB Council is to “assist the National Governing Bodies and Paralympic Sports Organizations as they strive to achieve sustained competitive excellence.”
“It’s really humbling. I believe the NGB Council is the most vital part of the Olympic Committee. The 47 National Governing Bodies that make up the USOC are an important part of the Olympic movement and a foundation for how the Olympic program is run in this country,” said Bender.
Bender was elected to this position initially in September 2010, to complete the term previously held by Skip Gilbert. This time, Bender will serve a full four-year term in this office.
Bender was selected for this volunteer leadership position by the chief executives of the National Governing Bodies and Paralympic Sports Organizations affiliated with the U.S. Olympic movement.
“I appreciate Rich’s leadership with the NGB Council,” said Jim Tooley, Executive Director of USA Basketball. “His experience running an NGB combined with his passion for the Olympic movement makes him an ideal Chair.”
The NGB Council is an organizational entity which is included in the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, and is also included in the bylaws of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“There is a huge diversity among the NGBs, some big, some small, some successful, some not. The NGB Council is focused on providing resources and support for all NGBs. We are committed to being a significant communications pipeline to the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure the USOC resources are being wisely invested in the National Governing Bodies,” said Bender.
The combined activity of the organizations included in the NGB Council includes the presentation of over 60,000 sports events each year and represents over 13,000,000 individual NGB members.
“The relationship between the NGBs and the USOC is at an all-time high right now. There is a lot of confidence right now in the leadership of the USOC,” said Bender. “The USOC has made a bold statement that they want to provide more and more resources to help the NGBs be successful. Certainly, I think we will see the USOC step up more and more for the NGBs, and ultimately for the athletes, which is what we are about,” said Bender.
In February 2001, Bender was named Executive Director of USA Wrestling and has served in that position since. Bender had served as Acting Executive Director for USA Wrestling prior to being offered the position on a permanent basis.
He has been a full-time employee with USA Wrestling for over 24 years. Prior to his current position, Bender served as the Associate Executive Director of Programs, where he oversaw USA Wrestling’s events, National Teams and developmental programs activities.
He previously served as USA Wrestling’s National Events Director, managing the organization’s regional, national and international events. Bender supervised major events including the 1995 World Freestyle Championships, age-group World Championships, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the U.S. Olympic Festival, the World Cup, the Goodwill Games, and numerous World Dual meets. He also directed the combined ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships, the world’s largest wrestling competition.
Bender also served as the Competition Manager for wrestling at the 1996 Olympic Games, working for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG). Bender organized a staff which presented one of the best Olympic wrestling competitions in history. Over 115,000 fans witnessed the wrestling competition in Atlanta.
As Executive Director, he has made a commitment to strengthen USA Wrestling’s membership and put the organization on its most solid financial footing in history. The organization has also focused on providing a safer environment for its participants. Bender has also welcomed the sport’s legends back to active involvement with USA Wrestling.
USA Wrestling set three all-time membership records in the recently completed 2011-12 season in the categories of athlete members, coaches, sanctioned events and registered clubs. USA Wrestling’s combined membership, including athletes, coaches and officials, reached just under 193,000 last season.
USA Wrestling’s budgeted revenue was $6.3 million dollar in fiscal year 2001-2002, Bender’s first full year as Executive Director, in comparison to $9.6 million in revenue for the current 2012-13 fiscal year.
Women’s wrestling has flourished during Bender’s tenure. The sport was added to the Olympic program at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. USA Wrestling’s women’s program has seen the addition of a U.S. Olympic Training Center Resident Athlete Program and the hiring of a National Women’s Coach, which led to a second-place finish at the 2003 World Championships.
Also during his service as Executive Director, USA Wrestling won its first World Team Title in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2007.
Bender served as a U.S. Olympic Committee intern in the fall of 1988, working for USA Wrestling. He was hired as Events Assistant for USA Wrestling in January 1989, and became Manager of National Events in September 1989. He has served on the Board of Directors for the United States Olympic Committee, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
He received a degree in Sports Management and a minor in Business Administration from Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1988. Bender was a three-sport athlete at Boscobel High School, earning two varsity letters each in football, baseball and wrestling. He and his wife Michelle have three daughters, Madeline, Chloe and Gabriella.