Vineyard will be inducted by the Tennessee chapter of the NWHOF at a banquet Friday at the Doubletree Hotel, in Chattanooga. Festivities are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Other inductees include Ashley Brooks, Lynn Goss, Ward Gossett, Bill “Doc” Hodges, Roy and Marty Varner and Frank Bryant.
The names of each inductee will be enshrined on a plaque at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.
“I found out back in October and was pretty much speechless. It’s quite an honor. I really can’t put it in words,” said the new Hall of Fame member.
Each state is represented by a local chapter and nominations for the Hall are considered by a state chapter committee.
“The Lifetime Achievement award, given through the state chapters, requires 20 years of service after the recipients wrestling career has concluded,” explained the former Bear wrestler. “From there, state chapter committee makes the nominations. Generally, between five and 10 are inducted from the state chapter.
Vineyard, a 1986 Bradley Central graduate, completed his 26th year as a wrestling official and his 22nd year as a state tournament official at the conclusion of the state traditional tournament last week, in Franklin.
His distinguished career began at the age of 13, when as a seventh-grader at Bradley Junior High school, Vineyard was recruited by head wrestling coach Bill Curtis after being spotted in the hallway.
“He needed an 87-pounder and I fit the profile at 82 pounds. I wrestled in my first match the next night, which I somehow won, and my interest in wrestling began,” Vineyard remembered.
Vineyard wrestled on the ninth-grade varsity during his three years at Bradley Junior, and was awarded the Most Valuable Wrestler Award his seventh-grade and ninth-grade years.
He continued wrestling at Bradley Central High School under head coach Turner Jackson from 1984-86 and was a district and region runner-up his sophomore season. Vineyard won the district and region championships his junior and senior seasons and qualified for the state tournament all three years. He also lettered all three years at BCHS and was captain of the wrestling team his senior year. The outstanding wrestler was named Most Valuable Wrestler his senior year and was an honors student graduating 24th in a class of 526 students with an average grade of 96.5.
While attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville a chance meeting at a high school football game with a Knoxville coach started Vineyard thinking about a future in officiating.
“I had no plans whatsoever to stay in the sport. I was actually just go up there and roll around with one of the local high schools and help them out while going to school,” Vineyard said chuckling. “(Local coach) Dan Duggar saw me at a high school football game and asked me if I thought about officiating. It was probably about two weeks later I called my first match. It was a lot of fun and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Vineyard has officiated at 10 state dual tournaments and the finals nine times. He has officiated three Southern Conference championship tournaments, the D-II East Regional qualifier and numerous dual meets involving teams from the Southern, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. He received the Official of the Year award from the Chattanooga Wrestling Official’s Association in 2003 and was awarded the A.F. Bridges Official of the Year award for the 2009-10 season by the TSSAA.
With so many trips to the state dual and traditional tournament under his belt, a well as countless bouts at innumerable high schools, the seasoned veteran said it is hard to decide which he likes best, officiating a match in a gym or the excitement of the state tournaments.
“I guess it would depend on the two teams. I did the duals two weeks ago and that is always exciting. The state tournament is the state tournament and it is pretty fun. All matches are fun, but some are more exciting than others. You line up with a Bradley-Cleveland match where the gym is rocking, or a Baylor-MCallie match where it is definitely as crazy as Bradley-Cleveland dual meets, and that atmosphere definitely gets your attention when you walk in,” said Vineyard.
Vinyard said he is thrilled, not only to be inducted into the NWHOF, but by locals who have gone before him.
“The folks I know that are in it from this area are my high school coach, Turner Jackson, and (Cleveland assistant coach) Al Miller. I was excited to see them go in.”
Vineyard said there are others whose names will be added to the list of local wrestling greats in short order.
“There are so many others that are headed into it. Steve Logsdon is a shoe-in. Somewhere down the road Eric Phillips (will be there). I don’t know how long Eric has been coaching. You have to hit that 20-year mark. I know Steve has at least 20 years in and there are so many others that are destined to be there. It is an incredible group of people to even be mentioned with,” said Vineyard with admiration.