Dan Wickham reached the pinnacle of wrestling Sunday.
Former Unatego coach Wickham, 65, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's New York chapter when he was presented with the Lifetime Service Award during a banquet at the Double Tree Hotel in Syracuse.
Former Section Four coaches Fred Marcello (Maine-Endwell), Richard "Pete" Hausrath (Sherburne-Earlville) and Marshall Schlosberg (Newark Valley) also were inducted Sunday.
"I got quite emotional," said Wickham, who was presented by his sons, Scott and Keith. "That was really great. There aren't a lot of people who can go to Stillwater, Okla., and see their name in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame."
Wickham said he and his wife, Ursula, are planning a trip to visit the Hall.
Wickham, who wrestled at Orange County Community College, began his coaching career at Afton from 1967-69. He then coached Unatego from 1969-88 and built the Spartans into a powerhouse program.
"I was a demanding coach and I wasn't a very quiet person," Wickham said. "When the kids went out on the mat, they were ready to go. When people wrestled Unatego, they knew they better be ready because we were coming after them."
Wickham's teams went 200-67-3 and won nine Section Four class championships _ two in Class B (1977, 1980), three in Class C (1985, 1987, 1988) and three in Class D (1981, 1982, 1983).
His program also won six Susquenango East titles, from 1981-86, and three overall league championships, from 1981-83. Unatego's 1983 team won the overall Section Four championship as a Class D program.
"The highlight has to be the year we won the overall sectionals," said Wickham, who had three sectional champions and a runner-up that season. "There were 14 weight classes and we qualified wrestlers in 13 of them. Ten placed in the overalls."
Wickham coached 11 individual Section Four champions overall in an era that featured one winner in each weight class. He also had seven state place-winners.
Former Unatego athletic director Roger Brown, who served as an assistant to Wickham from 1974-85, said Wickham had a knack for finding the right athletes to wrestle.
"He did a lot for kids," Brown said. "A certain type of kid made for a good wrestler and Dan sought out those kids and developed them into good wrestlers."
Wickham doubled as Unatego's pee-wee coach, running the youth program twice a week. He also held morning sessions twice a week at Otego and Unadilla elementary schools.
A seven-time Section Four Coach of the Year, Wickham also served as an assistant at Oneonta High for nine years before returning to assist the Spartans for four more seasons.
Unatego named its annual wrestling tournament the Dan Wickham Classic in 2005.
"This made me quite proud," Wickham said of his Hall of Fame induction. "It made me proud of what the kids and the team accomplished. Most of the time if people speak of Unatego, they speak of the wrestling past. I know it's bragging, but it's true."
P.J. Harmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.