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Celebrating UW's African-American Olympians: Lee Kemp

ON WISCONSIN <b>Lee Kemp</b>
Lee Kemp

Feb. 12, 2012

• Read more about UW Athletics Black History

MADISON, Wis. -- In anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games and in celebration of Black History Month, the University of Wisconsin Athletics program will highlight its Aftrican-American Olympians during the month of February.
Today we honor wrestler Lee Kemp, a seven-time national champion who qualified for the 1980 Olympics.

Arguably the most storied wrestler to ever step on the mat at the University of Wisconsin, Lee Kemp helped establish the UW program during the 1970s. Kemp was the first, and only, Wisconsin wrestler to win three NCAA championships and he did so in consecutive years.

Kemp came to Wisconsin in 1975, from Cleveland, Ohio, and over the next four years, set an array of UW records. Kemp posted a career record of 143-6-1, which is the best of any UW wrestler in terms of winning percentage (.957). Kemp was also the first UW wrestler to finish a season unblemished as he went 39-0 during the 1975-76 season.

Before the 2008-09 season, Kemp's 47 career pins was atop the UW's career falls list for 30 years. He still ties with Dallas Herbst for most falls in a season with 18.

Kemp's success did not end at the University of Wisconsin. Just two months after completing his senior year of competition, Kemp won the World Championships for freestyle wrestling; his first of four-consecutive titles at 163 lbs. Kemp also won four-straight gold medals at the World Cup of Freestyle and was a two-time gold medalist at the Pan-American Games.

In 1980, Kemp had the honor to represent his country in the Olympic Games but a government boycott of the Moscow games left Kemp and the rest of the U.S. team at home. After 28 years, Kemp finally made it to the Olympics when he served as an assistant coach for the U.S. freestyle team in Beijing.

He was inducted into the Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1983; into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1989; into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993; and inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame during this summer's Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

Enrolled at UW from Chardon, Ohio ... competed at 158 lbs. and became an NCAA wrestling runner-up in 1975 ... was voted outstanding freshman and sophomore in the nation in 1975 and 1976 by Amateur Wrestling News ... went a record-breaking 143-6-1 in his college career and 110-1-1 his last three years alone at Wisconsin ... earned a perfect 39-0-0 mark as a sophomore in 1976 ... won three Big Ten championships and three Midlands Open Championships from 1976-1978 ... is currently ranked fourth in the NCAA for all-time collegiate wins without a loss with an outstanding 103-0-1 record ... holds a winning percentage of .957, the best in Big Ten history ... was inducted into the Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1983

Went on after graduation to become a seven-time National Freestyle Wrestling champion -- a USWF Champion from 1979-1983 and an AAU Champion in 1979 and 1982 ... also was a three-time World Freestyle Wrestling gold medalist and a one-time bronze medalist ... named the youngest American at the age of 21 to win world championships, the first American to win three world championships and the first American to win four World Cup titles ... also was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in both 1979 and 1984 ... defeated Bulgarian Olympic Gold Medalist to win the gold medal super champions title match in 1980 ... named USWF wrestling "Man of the Year" in 1978 and received the Sun Cup Award in 1978 and 1979, given to the outstanding wrestler of the year ... earned an Olympic Award in 1984 for outstanding amateur athletic participation ... was inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1989; inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame during this summer's Olympics in Beijing in 2008

Other UW African American Olympians

George Poage, Track, 1904 Olympics


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