Santa Monica High coach Mark Black will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum by the organization’s California chapter during a formal ceremony May 21 in Laguna Hills.
Black will receive a lifetime service award, which is “given in recognition of years of dedication to the development of leadership and citizenship in young people through the sport of wrestling,” according to the Hall of Fame’s website.
Each year, the Oklahoma-based national hall highlights athletes, coaches and others who have contributed to the sport of wrestling.
Black is part of an induction class that also includes Alan Clinton, Terry Martin, Lou Montano, Gary Peterson, Ray Rodi, Gave Ruz, Bob Steckman, Marshall Thompson, Karen Tufnell, Ray Wallace and Damon Zumwalt.
Attempts to reach Black were not successful.
Black attended Claremont High School, where he was a three-time varsity letterman in wrestling and two-time league champion at 145 pounds.
He then continued his athletic career at UCLA, where he was named the program’s most improved wrestler in 1971-72. He took third place in the Pacific-8 Conference in 1974 and was fourth in the league in 1975, participating in the NCAA Wrestling Championship both years in the 150-pound bracket.
Black competed seven times at the USA Wrestling Veterans National Championship and also participated in the FILA Veterans World Championships in Istanbul in 2007, taking third place in the 167.5-pound division.
But despite his own accomplishments on the mat, Black is being recognized primarily for a 40-year coaching career during which he’s compiled an overall record of 269-115.
His foray into the coaching ranks began at UCLA, where he was an assistant during the 1976-77 season. He then landed at Samohi, where he’s been since 1977 except for a season at El Camino College in 1981-82.
It’s a tenure during which Black, a science teacher at the high school, has coached hundreds of students and guided many talented youngsters to success. He mentored Laurence Jackson, a three-time state champion at Samohi who was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. He helped Yusef Syed win a state championship in 2007. And he oversaw the rise of Hana Askren, a Samohi student who later wrestled for the Israeli national team.
This past season, under Black’s tutelage, Riha Prasad competed at the state finals and Nasir Grissom and Haroldo Nesbeth advanced to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet. Grissom, Conor Meyer, Greenich Chase and Chikara Sakamoto won league titles.
Black’s tenure at Samohi has had its share of controversy. In 2011, he was named in a civil rights complaint alleging that he didn’t report to police after two of his athletes racially taunted a teammate, although the alleged victim’s mother did not blame the coach. In 2014, he was involved in a classroom altercation with a student and placed on paid leave, although he was reinstated shortly thereafter amid a groundswell of support.
A founding coach of the Santa Monica Bay Wrestling Club, Black has also been involved in Beat the Streets LA, a nonprofit that empowers area youth through wrestling.
Black’s induction ceremony will be held at the Laguna Hills Community Center, 25555 Alicia Pkwy. A 6 p.m. dinner will be preceded by a social hour at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $75. For more information, visit http://ca-nwhof.ticketleap.com or contact Dale Deffner at email@example.com.