The late Steve Gabriel, who coached Appalachian State’s wrestling program to a 90-24-2 record from 1965-74 after competing in both football and wrestling as an App State student from 1948-52, has been announced as a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame’s 2019 induction class.
Gabriel, Ernie Barnes, Willie Bradshaw, Eddie Bridges, Rod Broadway, Gene Corrigan, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dee Kantner, Davis Love III, Paul Miller, Neill McGeachy and Thell Overman will be enshrined during the 56th annual induction banquet on May 3 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Ticket information for the banquet is available at ncsportshalloffame.org or 919-845-3455.
“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich North Carolina’s remarkable sports heritage, and the individuals have certainly earned the honor of joining the 351 men and women who have been previously enshrined,” said Nora Lynn Finch, president of the Hall. “This is our 56th class, and we look forward to celebrating this special time in our state’s sports history.”
The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1963. A permanent exhibit is located on the third floor of the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh and features significant objects and memorabilia donated by inductees.
Coming to Boone in the late 1940s, Gabriel received the coveted title of “Mr. Appalachian” and was named “Friendliest” of his senior class. A member of the Physical Education Majors Club and member/ treasurer of the Men’s “A” Club, he was an outstanding football player at Appalachian, lettering two years as the starting quarterback. He wrestled four years, compiling a 40-4-1 record and twice becoming an NCAAU champion.
After founding the wrestling program at Appalachian High School in Boone and leading his teams to a record-setting 140-0 record over a 13-year period, Gabriel returned to Appalachian State as a wrestling coach, financial advisor and P.E. instructor.
He coached nine seasons, starting with a 9-0 record in 1965-66 and later taking Appalachian its first national tournament (at the NAIA level) during the 1970-71 season. During Gabriel’s run as head coach, Appalachian had five different wrestlers earn NAIA All-America honors: Jim Whitmer (1966), George Sansone (1968), Walt Braine (1968), Bruce Schlegal (1968, 1970, 1971) and Herb Singerman (1970).
Gabriel accepted a full-time position as the university’s Financial Director, serving until 1989, in addition to teaching recreational dance and racquetball.
He was inducted into the Appalachian State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987, and, upon retirement in 1989, following 37 years of state employment, was given the Governor’s Award for Excellence. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004, joining one of his former wrestlers and App State assistants in J.W. Welborn as part of the same induction class.