Legendary Cortland Coach Gary Dillingham tragically passed away last night at the Cortland match. He was just inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last summer for a lifetime of service to our sport. Here is the press release for that induction.
NATIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME
LIFETIME SERVICE AWARD
Following a high school athletic Qareer at Cortland High School where Gary participated in three sports, football, wrestling and ffack, Gary elected to join the Navy to serve his country. Upon leaving the armed service, he continued his education at Cortland State where he enjoyed a successful athletic career in football, wrestling and track. However, it was wrestling th at Gary committed to excel in and have an outstanding career. During his collegiate wrestling years, under the tutelage of legendary coach Dave Miller, Gary wrestled with several Hall of Famers including Frank "Butch" Mallard, Jack LaBombard, Elmer Ackley, Al Sheer and Leo Johnson. The Cortland Red Dragons were considered the team to beat in the conference at that time. In 1961 Gary flnished 2nd for the Red Dragons at the SLNrY wrestling championships and returned in 1962 to cap off his career by winning the conference championship.
After graduation, Gary started coaching at Cortland High School and resurrected a 1-13 team into two sectional championship teams in 1967 atd 1969. He lost the 1968 sectional championship by one point when one of his wrestlers missed weight by just 1/4 of a pound. "Di11", as he has is known in Cortland and the wrestling communiry has helped to develop many other championship teams in both Section III and Section IV. His teams have won league championships in both the CNYCL and STAC conferences. He has guided three wrestlers, Larry Hinkle, Charlie Wright and John Kaminsky, to the runner-up position in the New York State championship and has produced several state placers including Dick Meldrim, who is now the President of the New York State Wrestling Officials Association. During his coaching career he developed 15 sectional champions and numerous other tournament champions.
Gary has pointed out two highlights in his illustrious coaching career. The first being in 1972 when his Cortland Purple Tigers tied Union-Endicott, who were ranked number 1 in the state at the time, for the STAC League Championship. It was an especially gratifying accomplishment because the championships were being contested at Union-Endicott and his good friend Frank Sorochinsky was the opposing coach. Then in January of 1973 the Purple Tigers traveled to Peru and were able to snap Peru's consecutive dual meet victory streak at l25. Gary's team won a well-earned one point victory at Peru which was considered one of the most difficult places in the state to win at. In addition to these and many other highlights he was inducted into the Section III Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999.
Since his retirement from teaching and being the wrestling coach at Cortland, Gary has been very active in volunteering at many activities in the community. He served as a volunteer wrestling coach, a driver for the Disabled American Veterans, worked with the American Cancer Society and during the holiday season is a bell-ringer for the SalvationArmy. Gary's commitment to the community is exemplary.
Dick Meldrim stated the following about Gary "Although his personal success is great, it is his dedication to his athletes as a coach that shines brightest in my memory ... he expected the best from us, on and offthe mat." No higher praise could be spoken about a coach. It is with gteathonor that the New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame presents the Lifetime Service Award to Coach Gary Dillingham.