Famed wrestling tournament announcer Sandy Stevens has established the Bear and Sandy Stevens Head Wrestling Coach Endowment for her alma mater, University of Northern Iowa, with funds designated to support the salary of the Panthers wrestling coach position, the Cedar Falls school announced Thursday.
Both Sandy and her late husband Bear (Bob) Stevens graduated from Northern Iowa. Bear wrestled for the Panthers from 1959-63 under legendary head coach Bill Koll, who himself had wrestled at the school — then called Iowa State Teachers College — immediately after World War II. After graduation, Bear taught science and was an assistant wrestling coach. He later became a science teacher and was the first wrestling coach at the newly opened Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids. During his career Bear also served as a junior high and high school administrator.
“UNI provided Bear with the knowledge and the philosophy of teaching and coaching this sport,” said Sandy Stevens. “Bear was able to take that and touch the lives of students. And if he hadn’t been a coach, I would never have started announcing.”
The “voice of amateur wrestling events” told how she launched her announcing career. “Bear came home and said he didn’t have an announcer for the night,” said Stevens. “He told me, ‘Since you know about wrestling and will be there anyway, can you just sit at the microphone and welcome the wrestlers to the mats?'” That was nearly 45 years ago. Since then, Sandy Stevens has served as a wrestling announcer for events at all levels of competition, including high school tournaments, NCAA championships, and the Olympics. Her work has been honored in numerous ways, having received the Order of Merit from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Meritorious Service Award from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and the International “Exceptionelle” ranking from United World Wrestling.
“This may sound dramatic, but I’ve seen wrestling change the way people look at the world and themselves,” Sandy Stevens said in the statement issued by Northern Iowa in announcing the establishment of the wrestling coach position at the school. “I believe so strongly in the sport that I didn’t want anything to ever happen to UNI’s wrestling program. We have such a phenomenal legacy here. Giving to UNI was one way to continue this legacy.”
The well-known wrestling event announcer, who now resides in Glen Ellyn, Ill. outside Chicago, described the reason for establishing this endowment.
“I would not have done this had I not believed in Doug Schwab and the kind of coach he is and the kind of coaches UNI has had and will continue to have,” said Sandy, mentioning the coach who became head coach of the Panther wrestling program in May 2010. “He has the same high expectations and standards for his wrestlers off the mat as he does on the mat. He is an outstanding example of teaching life lessons but also of caring about the individual, whether that individual is an All-American or someone in the wrestling room working his tail off.”
“Sandy’s gift is the ultimate legacy,” said UNI Director of Athletics Troy Dannen. “Her passion for UNI wrestling is unmatched. There is no doubt that her personal investments in our program will enable UNI wrestling to achieve and sustain long-term success.”