Class of 2024

Greg Gardner, Williamsville


Greg Gardner has spent his entire life immersed in wrestling. He began wrestling in grade school at the age of 10 and placed third in the IKWF State Finals. He was coached by his father, 1989 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee Jack Gardner, at Springfield Southeast High School. He compiled a high school record of 136-23, qualifying for the IHSA state tournament three times. He was a three-time City Champion. In 1985 he placed sixth and won the IHSA State Championship at 155 in 1986 with a perfect 43-0 record with a title win over Tinley Park's Eric Schultz. While competing for Team Illinois/USA Wrestling, Greg finished third at the Illinois State Freestyle and went on to earn a fourth-place medal at the USA Junior Nationals. After graduation from Southeast, Greg attended Illinois State University where he wrestled for 1978 IWCOA Hall of Fame Inductee George Giradi. He was a four-year varsity wrestler and was team captain and named most valuable wrestler. Greg was a nationally-ranked Division I wrestler two years in a row and he was a 1990 NCAA Division I national qualifier and entered the event as the 12th-ranked wrestler in the country. He finished his career at Illinois State with an overall record of 83-32. After completing his college wrestling career and earning his degree in Special Education, Greg went on to coach at Springfield Southeast from 1991 through 2003. He was special education department chair at Southeast and Sangamon County assistant regional superintendent of schools. Greg completed a master’s in Education Administration at the University of Illinois-Springfield. During his coaching tenure, he coached 16 state qualifiers and two IHSA state place winners. During this time, he also coached the Illinois Junior National Freestyle Team. He founded the Springfield Southeast Kids Wrestling Club from 1991 to 2003. In 2005 Greg was on a routine jog and was struck from behind during his run. This accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Greg uses his talents as an educator and administrator to help others. He does so through Individual Differences Inc., a nonprofit agency he founded in 2008 to provide support for persons with disabilities. He was inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame, and received the Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum - Illinois Chapter. The awards are meaningful, as he credits the sport with his ability to rebuild his life. Greg joins his father, Jack, his uncle Jim, and brother Mark in the Hall of Fame and is a member of the Class of 2024 with his cousin Andy.