By Tim HippsApril 24, 2007
LAS VEGAS (Army News Service, April 24, 2007) - U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program's Staff Sgt. Shon Lewis has been named 2006 Greco-Roman Coach of the Year by USA Wrestling.
Staff Sgt. Lewis, who recently led the All-Army team to its fifth national Greco-Roman crown in seven years, has been selected for the honor three times during his seven-year coaching career. He also won the award in 2002 and 2004.
A four-time national and 13-time Armed Forces champion wrestler, Staff Sgt. Lewis left his shoes on the mat at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Dallas and vowed to become the next WCAP coach - and to take the program to unprecedented heights.
He since has delivered.
"What I'm excited about and I'm appreciative and grateful of is that you can't win coach of the year without athletes who will buy into your system and believe in you," said Staff Sgt. Lewis, 40, a native of Oakland, Calif., stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "I've been real fortunate to have a group of guys that really believed in my techniques and my philosophy.
"These guys look me in the eye and take my word 100 percent. They go out there and execute things that we work on in the room, so it's a testament to them."
The All-Army team has won six consecutive Armed Forces wrestling championships against squads from the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy.
"In my first year as the All-Army coach, we lost the Armed Forces championship to the Marine Corps at Fort Hood, and I just sat there in a chair after our heavyweight got pinned to give them the title," Staff Sgt. Lewis recalled of a day in 2001 he would prefer to forget - but never will. "I watched the Marines running around the mat and the gym giving each other high-fives and hugs, and I just promised to myself: 'Never again.'
"I keep pushing the envelope and my guys keep responding and wrestling hard, start to finish. It feels good because the Army has had a good little run."
Several wrestlers in recent years have left the All-Marine and All-Air Force teams to wrestle for the All-Army squad.
"I don't do any recruiting, but if my phone rings, I'll answer it," Staff Sgt. Lewis said. "We have a lot of young, good Soldiers who come into the Army and want to be Soldiers first and try out for the World Class Athlete Program and the All-Army program. For them, my door is always open. But I think the biggest recruiters are the guys (who came) before that believed in the system.
"Everybody wants to be part of the Black and Gold just like everybody wanted to play for the (Chicago) Bulls when they had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They see that we are a true team. We're not a club; we are a true team. Wherever we go, we are one unit, and I think they want to be a part of that."
Staff Sgt. Lewis was selected to be Team USA's Greco-Roman coach for the 2007 Pan American Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He helped coach the U.S. Greco team to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Championships in Guangzhou, China. He also led Team USA to a second-place finish at the 2006 Pan Am Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Staff Sgt. Lewis was one of three Greco-Roman coaches for Team USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He also coached the U.S. team at the 2003 World CISM Military Championships in Ankara, Turkey, where WCAP Commander Capt. Dominic Black and then-Staff Sgt. Jason Kutz won world titles.
At the 2003 World Championships in Creteil, France, Staff Sgt. Lewis served as head coach for the U.S. Greco-Roman team that finished 13th. He was an assistant coach for the U.S. Greco-Roman team that placed fifth at the 2002 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, where Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers became the fourth American ever to win a Greco-Roman world crown. Joe Warren became the fifth by winning at the 2006 World Championships.
Staff Sgt. Lewis was also named 1993 Army Athlete of the Year. Before becoming a Soldier, he wrestled for the University of Oregon and Placer High School in Auburn, Calif.
(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)