Leroy Kemp

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Lee Kemp with his 7 Gold Medals earned during his wrestling career
Leroy Kemp
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Men's freestyle wrestling
World Championships
Gold 1978 Mexico City 74 kg
Gold 1979 San Diego 74 kg
Bronze 1981 Skopje 74 kg
Gold 1982 Edmonton 74 kg
Pan American Games
Gold 1987 Puerto Rico 74 kg
Gold 1983 Caracas 74 kg
FILA Wrestling World Cup
Gold 1979 Toledo 74 kg
Gold 1980 Toledo 74 kg
Gold 1981 Toledo 74 kg
Gold 1982 Toledo 74 kg
World Super Championships
Gold 1980 Nagoya 74 kg
1980 Summer Olympics

1980 Summer Olympics boycott

Leroy (Lee) P. Kemp, Jr. (born Darnell Freeman on December 24, 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio) was arguably one of the most successful American amateur wrestlers ever in United States history, achieving unparalleled successs at the high school, collegiate and international levels.

Lee Kemp started wrestling in only the 9th grade at Chardon High School, in Chardon, Ohio and by the end of his high school career had compiled two undefeated seasons while winning two Ohio State titles in his last two seasons. His first state title included wins over the defending state champion and the previous years' state runnerup. Shortly after graduating from high school, Lee was one of only four American Junior wrestlers that recorded a dual meet win against a tough Junior Soviet team on their Ohio stop of an eight city United States tour, which resulted in 80 total matches being contested. Lee also won the prestigious Junior National Freestyle Tournament in July of that same year defeating a future 3-time NCAA Champion in the finals.

While competing for the University of Wisconsin–Madison Lee Kemp was a four-time NCAA Division I National finalist, winning the championship three times and placing 2nd, on a split referee's decision, as a true freshman at 18 years old. Lee recorded losses to only three wreslers in his collegiate career losing his last college match in the NCAA finals as a freshman, posting 110 wins and no losses against collegiate competition in has last three years, which included the historic win over the legendary Dan Gable in November of Lee's sophomore year, while he was still 18 years old. March 10, 2010 Inside Wisconsin Sports Article,"The Day Lee Kemp Beat the Great Dan Gable", by Mike Beacom.

Lee Kemp was America's first three-time World Champion, winning his first title in 1978 at age 21, establishing him as the youngest American world champion ever, a distinction he held for 30 years. Lee was a four-time World Cup Champion, 7-time United States Freestyle National Champion and was a heavy favorite for gold earning a berth on the 1980 United States Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Team, but was unable to compete because of the U.S. boycott of the Olympics.

Kemp was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990. Then at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he was one of the freestyle coaches for the U.S., he became just the fifth American to be inducted into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Lee Kemp is currently the subject of a film documentary, entitled Ghost & Goblins, on his life scheduled for completion in July 2014, and is the co-founder and President of FORZA Technologies, a nutritional supplement company. FORZA is the official corporate sponsor of USA Wrestling and its national teams.

Early life[edit]

Kemp was born to a single mother, who eventually put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Leroy Percy Kemp and his wife Jessie. Darnell was their only child and after the adoption they legally changed his name to Leroy P. Kemp, Jr. The Kemps lived in Cleveland until Leroy Jr. finished 6th grade, when they purchased a 25-acre (100,000 m2) farm in Chardon, Ohio.

Wrestling career[edit]

High school[edit]

As a freshman at Chardon high school, Kemp got involved in wrestling after being cut from the basketball team. He made the varsity as a sophomore for the 1972 season and finished with an 11-8-3 record. The next two seasons he was an Ohio State high school champion and finished undefeated in his junior and senior years. His first state title included wins over the defending state champion and the previous years' state runnerup. His career record in high school was 78-8-3. Prior to matriculating at the University of Wisconsin, Lee was one of only four American Junior wrestlers that recorded a dual meet win against a tough Junior Soviet team on their Ohio stop of an eight city United States tour (which resulted in 80 total matches being contested). Lee also won the Junior Freestyle Nationals in the summer of 1974.

College[edit]

Kemp started for Wisconsin as a true freshman and finished second at the Big Ten tournament at 150 pounds. He also reached the finals of the 1975 NCAA tournament and lost a split referees decision to Chuck Yagla of the University of Iowa. That was the last loss of Kemp's career. Kemp's only losses in his collegiate career were to three wrestlers in his freshman year

The following season, Kemp moved up a weight class to 158 pounds. Kemp won the NCAA title at 158 pounds the next three seasons and the only blemish on his record was a single tie finishing with 110 collegiate wins, which included the historic win over the legendary Dan Gable in November of Lee's sophomore year, while he was still 18 years old. March 10, 2010 Inside Wisconsin Sports Article,"The Day Lee Kemp Beat the Great Dan Gable", by Mike Beacom. He completed his college career with a record of 143-6-1 and 47 falls. He had an 87-match winning streak (no losses or ties) and a 103-match unbeaten streak.

Freestyle[edit]

Kemp, in his first major international tournament, won a gold medal at 74 kg (163 pounds) at the world freestyle championships in August 1978. At the age of 21 years and 8 months, he had become the youngest American to capture a world or Olympic gold medal. He held that distinction for 30 years until Henry Cejudo won the Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He repeated as world champion in 1979 and 1982—becoming the first American to win three times—and added a bronze medal in 1981. He also won a gold medal at the 1979 and 1983 Pan American games. He was the U.S. freestyle champion for five straight years from 1979 through 1983. The U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics prevented him from winning the ultimate prize—an Olympic gold medal. Kemp retired in 1984 after finishing second at the U.S. Olympic trials. His record in all international competition was 53-8.

Kemp was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990. Then at the Beijing Olympics, where he was one of the freestyle coaches for the U.S., he became just the fifth American to be inducted into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Professional career[edit]

Kemp earned both a Bachelor and Master degree in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin. He spent the first several years of his post athletic career working in the field of marketing for major corporations. In 1991, Kemp became President/Owner of Forest Lake Ford, a Ford dealership located near Minneapolis/St Paul. The dealership was named to the Top 100 list of minority-owned auto dealerships, by Black Enterprise, in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2004. Kemp sold the dealership in 2005.

Lee Kemp is currently the subject of a film documentary on his life scheduled for completion in July 2014,[1] and is the co-founder and President of Forza Technologies, a nutritional supplement company. FORZA is the official corporate sponsor of USA Wrestling and its national teams.[2]

Today Kemp remains active in wrestling on a broad scale, teaching and mentoring youth and high school level wrestlers at his wrestling academy.[3] He has three children, two sons and a daughter.

Other accomplishments[edit]

  • 1975 Defeated Dan Gable 7-6 at the Northern Open
  • 1978 US Wrestling Federation "Man of the Year"
  • 1978 Sullivan Award Finalist
  • 1979 Sullivan Award Finalist
  • 1983 Inducted into the Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame
  • 1998 Named the "Wrestler of the Decade" for the 70's by the Amateur Wrestling News
  • 2005 Named to the NCAA Wrestling 75th Anniversary Team
  • 2008 Inducted to International Wrestling Hall of Fame
  • 2009 Elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame

Further reading[edit]

  • Sports Illustrated - February 21, 1977 - Suppression of His Aggression
  • Sports Illustrated - August 23, 1982 - Alone in the Eye of the Hurricane
  • The Olympian - September 1983 - US Wrestling Star only Lack Gold Medal
  • Hammond, Jairus K. 2005. The History of Collegiate Wrestling. National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. ISBN 978-0-9765064-0-9
  • Moffat, James V. 2007. Wrestlers At The Trials. Exit Zero Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9799051-0-0
  • Hammond, Jairus K. & Little, Lisa. 2008. The African American Wrestling Experience. National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Inside Wisconsin Sports, March 10, 2010, The Day Lee Kemp Beat the Great Dan Gable, by Mike Beacon

References[edit]

External links[edit]