Kenny Rhodes is remembered as one of Washington County’s all-time great high school wrestlers.
Since graduating from Williamsport in 1985, his continuous contributions to the sport have made him a hall-of-famer.
At a banquet in Annapolis on Oct. 6, Rhodes, 51, will be honored by the Maryland Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award.
“I’ve never done any of this for any kind of honor,” said Rhodes, one of the chapter’s five 2019 honorees. “It’s a passion, something I love and know a lot about and something I want to share.”
After an injury-shortened wrestling career at Temple University, Rhodes devoted his energy to giving back to the sport.
He worked as an assistant coach at several high schools, including Williamsport and Saint James, and he was heavily involved with the Williamsport Wrestling Club, helping guide young athletes.
Rhodes has volunteered with the Maryland State Wrestling Association in various capacities, including regional director, and he has helped direct and organize numerous youth and high school tournaments.
He also is a longtime member of the Washington County Wrestling Officials Association.
“I’ve always stayed involved with wrestling,” Rhodes said.
“When I look at this award, I look at it as my association with youth wrestling and my association with high school wrestling. My passion was to teach young kids the sport of wrestling, and then when I got older, to run tournaments and help others run tournaments.”
Rhodes began wrestling when he was 5 at the Hagerstown YMCA. He then joined the Williamsport Wrestling Club, and by the time he became a Wildcat in high school, he was a force on the mat.
He compiled a 103-5-1 record in high school, becoming the first Washington County wrestler to reach 100 career victories.
Rhodes also was the county’s first four-time state placer. He placed third at 105 pounds as a freshman in 1982 and second at 112 as a sophomore, before capturing the title at 112 as a junior. As a senior, he became a two-time state champ, prevailing at 119.
Rhodes said he’s always appreciated the individual aspect of the sport.
“It’s two guys going onto a mat, and one guy is going to get his hand raised,” he said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction to getting your hand raised and knowing that you’re the better one coming off the mat.”
He said the lessons he learned from wrestling have been invaluable.
“I’m old-school. People can keep their participation trophies. I don’t believe in that,” he said. “There are reasons why there are certain types of people who are going to take the ball and run with it, because they have the willpower, the zest and the motivation to go out and make it happen. And that’s a lot of what wrestling taught me. You don’t always have to rely on somebody else. You can make it happen. Wrestling gives you a lot of good characteristics in life that make you who you are.”
Rhodes is set to join a handful of other local Maryland Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honorees, including Greg Slick (2007), Rick Hare (2008), Joe Dietrich (2011), Ed Masood (2011), Jim Schartner (2011) and Al Witt (2014).
Rhodes said that Witt, a former longtime coach at Williamsport High, was a special mentor to him.
“This is a big honor to me because now I can say I followed in my old coach’s footsteps,” Rhodes said. “Al Witt, he actually coached my father in high school too.”