PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The head coach of the Plymouth State University wrestling team will earn one of his sports' highest honors next month when he is inducted into the New England Wrestling Association Hall of Fame.
Tommy Prairie, who is in his third season as PSU's head wrestling coach, will be formally inducted into the NEWA Hall of Fame at the annual New England Conference Championships, held this year on Feb. 20-21 at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass. Prairie, a 2005 graduate of Williams College, was a three-time New England champion and First Team All-American for the Ephs who finished his career with a sparkling record of 106-8.
This year's inductees include Prairie along with fellow wrestlers Keith Poloskey of Springfield College, Leon Dunham, Robert Harris, and Mike Tobin of Mass. Maritime Academy, and Tim Sullivan and Jesse Morrison of Western New England College, and Coach Pete Hexter from Mass Maritime Academy.
"It's a nice way to look at my career as a whole, now that it's over," said Prairie (right) of his induction. "It's the highest award I've received because it sums up my whole career. I appreciate it a lot more now, seeing wrestling from the other aspect."
Since graduating from Williams, Prairie has been involved in coaching wrestling. He spent a year at Cumberland University in Tennessee where he coached and earned a Master's degree with honors in business. Now in his third season at Plymouth State, he guided the Panthers to a 10-8 record last year, their first winning season since 2001-02 and registering at least 10 victories for the first time since 1998-99.
A native of Delran, N.J., Prairie won the New England Conference tournament as a sophomore and junior at 125 pounds and earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award as a senior after winning the 125-pound championship. He captured third place and fourth place in his first two NCAA appearances in 2003 and 2004, and finished runner-up as a senior. His sophomore All-America selection came after winning four straight matches in the consolation rounds en route to his third-place finish. His 108 career wins included more than 20 victories over NCAA Division III All-Americans.
Prairie was the first three-time All-American wrestler at Williams (left) and the first national finalist in the history of the school. He led the Ephs to three straight top-20 places at the NCAA national championships, the highest finishes in school history, including a program-best 12th place in 2005.
Prairie credited his former Williams coaches Mike Whalen, Rafael Vega, and Dan Dicenzo with helping him to reach the top.
"Coach Whalen did a lot for me in my career," said Prairie. "His encouragement at the nationals my sophomore year really helped set the tone, and defined my whole career. I was undefeated and up 9-1 in the quarterfinals and got pinned and didn't want to wrestle any more. That was my only loss that whole year. But he would have none of that, and put me back out there and I ended up coming back to win four in a row, including two by pin, and taking third place. He made it to the All-American round four times as a wrestler and never won, so for me to not wrestle at that point wasn't an option."
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