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Officially welcomed into exclusive club

Roy Snyder.
Roy Snyder.

CHAMPAIGN – Roy Snyder and Jim Busser took center stage on Friday night at the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament at State Farm Center.

When they're both doing their thing, however, both would just as soon not be recognized at all.

Snyder and Busser, who hail from Rochelle and Polo, respectively, are among a group of 19 men who are members of the 2014 Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame class. They were honored prior to the semifinal round on Friday night, and will be formally inducted at the IWCOA banquet on Sunday, April 13 in Countryside.

They have 48 years of wrestling officiating between them, and were informed of their honor about 6 weeks ago.

"It's a great honor, and I've worked hard for it," Snyder said. "My crew mates, all the other officials that I've worked with, we're just one big family. It shows that we take care of each other. The people who I'm voted in with this time, people who have gotten in in the past – it's just a great honor."

"It was kind of shock to me," Busser added, "but it's greatly appreciated. A lot of hard work went into this. If starts off as a hobby, and it turns into a long-term pleasure. It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience."

Snyder, a multi-sport athlete at Dubuque Hempstead High School, moved to Mount Morris in 1991. As a way to get involved in the community, he served as a volunteer coach in soccer, baseball, wrestling, and football.

That led to him becoming an official. He started with football, and wrestling, baseball, and softball soon followed.

"It's just something that I like doing," Snyder said, "and I like being around the kids. Some people do it for the money. I do it for the enjoyment. I just love the sport."

Snyder has officiated wrestling matches for 22 years. Included in that run have been 20 regionals, 16 sectionals, nine dual team sectionals, seven dual team state finals, and six individual state finals.

The bigger events are fun, Snyder noted, but he gets an equal kick out of working local duals. He officiates, on the average, about four nights a week.

"No matter where you're at, when you blow that first whistle," Snyder said, "you've got that little voice over your back saying, 'All right Roy, let's get this right. You're doing this for the kids.'"

Busser was a 4-year football player and wrestler in Polo, helped start the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation program in Polo, and coaches at the junior high level in his hometown.

He's been an official for 26 years, with 11 combined state high school state tournaments under his belt. Like Snyder, he will work the dual team state tourney next weekend in Normal.

Busser and Snyder have worked together on numerous occasions, and have developed a symmetry over time.

"Working with Jim all these years, we basically know where we're going to be," Snyder said. "We know what we're looking for if we need assistance. Just by the expressions on our face, we know what needs to be done."

Both singled out one bout as being their most memorable. About 5 years ago, St. Rita All-American Albert White lost a 1-0 decision in the finals of the prestigious Dvorak Tournament. He was ranked first in the nation at the time.

"That was probably the biggest bout I can remember," Busser said. "It was an overtime ride-out match, and it was really something to see."

As far as officiating influences, Busser cited his uncle, Randy Wagner of Polo, for getting him started. Both men also mentioned former Sterling coach and longtime official Don Mekeel as being influential in their careers.

"Don has been the biggest inspiration to me, and never stops teaching me," Busser said. "Every time I have a little problem, I call Don, and he fills me in on what exactly should be done."

Officiating has become a year-round venture for the men. They attend clinics to go over rules and work on their mechanics, in hopes of improving their craft.

Some nights, Snyder goes to matches he's not working, just to watch other officials work.

"If I stop learning, it's time for me to get out," Snyder said.

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