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McPhee to receive national wrestling award for courage
RUMFORD -- Next June, sports reporter Bob McPhee will travel to Stillwater, OK to accept a national wrestling award for courage and to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame awards the Medal of Courage to a wrestler who has overcome insurmountable challenges. McPhee has spent most of his life confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. He uses a device known as the "Liberator" to communicate and conduct interviews, covering sports for the Rumford Falls Times, for the Sun Journal and online for the Maine Wrestling Alliance.
Asked what the award meant to him, McPhee said, "Totally unbelievable. It’s quite an honor and very unexpected, especially for a kid from Peru. The thought of being recognized nationally was something that wasn’t on the radar."
"Regarding the medal of courage, to me, courage means going above and beyond the normal or doing something extra in the face of adversity. Personally, I really do not feel that I’ve achieved any of it. I have just tried to live life in the best possible way. I’ve just had to learn to be patient and adapt to various situations because 'It Could Be Worse.’"
McPhee was referring to his book that chronicles his life and career in a book, "It Could Be Worse: The Rest of the Story." Published by USA Wrestling of Colorado Springs, it was re-released late last summer.
The book (20 chapters) contains events, beginning three weeks prior to the unfortunate incident. The writings continue with details of the hospital emergency room, a life-saving operation and a coma lasting 17 days.
Regarding the two-day event, McPhee said, "It will be interesting to see what transpires. The NWHOF represents a long tradition and a lot of important people in the sport have been honored. Equally, there have been a lot of great wrestlers and contributors from our state."
On June 8, there will be an open house reception and exhibit presentation. The next day will be the induction ceremony and banquet.
McPhee is the first-ever recipient of the honor from New England. "Yes, I'm receiving the Medal of Courage, but the letter states I’m being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame."
Ted Reese, a long-time college and high school wrestling coach who is McPhee's friend and mentor, nominated him for the medal.
"Ted informed me in early November and said a letter would be sent. I was speechless (pardon the pun)," said McPhee.
Reese got to know McPhee on Aug. 14, 1976 when he was a coach on a Maine team that included McPhee.
The team competed against an Austrian team in an international meet held in Maine.
A highlight of that competition came when McPhee pinned the European champion in 21 seconds and was named the meet's outstanding wrestler.
Three weeks later, McPhee, then a Rumford High School senior, suffered an injury to his brain stem during a football scrimmage. He emerged from a 17-day coma unable to walk or talk and with limited mobility in his upper body.
During nearly three years of rehabilitation, McPhee was advised to move out of state, in order to receive a college education. He ignored these words, eventually enrolling in a Maine college. He transferred to University of Maine in 1981, and graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in Journalism.
McPhee, who grew up in Peru, relocated back to western Maine in 1987, and has been employed as a sports writer with the Lewiston Sun Journal to this day. He has also been a sports correspondent for the Rumford Falls Times since 1997.
McPhee is well-respected - both professionally and personally - and has received several awards, throughout a productive journalism career. They include:
* 1996 State Editor-Of-The-Year by Wrestling U.S.A. Magazine (national);
* 1997 Media Award for writer of Year by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association;
* 1998 Media Award from the Maine Field Hockey Association;
* 2000 Inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame (writer/wrestling career);
* 2004 Maine Sports Hall OF Fame (special achievement);
* 2009 Inducted in to Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.