By Michael Kinney
When Dwight Hinson arrived in Lawton more than three decades ago, the military brat knew nothing about real wrestling. His only experience with the sport was being an avid WWE fan with its flamboyant characters and scripted matches.
However, when the eighth-grader found out his new friends at Central Junior High were going to be on the wrestling team, Hinson decided to follow along to check it out.
That decision led Hinson on a journey that produced a stellar wrestling career that spanned all levels of the sport.
“I didn’t know what to expect or anything, but that’s where it all started,” Hinson said. “I give it all back to Lawton, Oklahoma.”
Despite being retired for years, Hinson found out he still had one more stop on his journey. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame informed the 45-year old Hinson that he will be part of its 2021 Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame of Iowa. The induction ceremony will take place June 25 in Waverly, Iowa.
“It’s a dream come true, but it wasn’t anything I was shooting for,” Hinson said. “I was just out there loving the sport of wrestling, paying it forward, teaching other little kids and giving back. I didn’t expect to get it at all. I didn’t wake up every day just thinking I was going to be a Hall of Famer. I just love doing what I do, just taking care of my family, being with my occupation in law enforcement, trying to change that a little bit, and also teaching kids and whoever may want to learn about the sport of wrestling.”
Hinson is a police officer with the Iowa State University Department of Public safety. But he also coaches the Central Iowa Wrestling Club and Team Intensity, a wrestling program for youth in Ames, Iowa.
While Hinson is happy to have the hall of fame honor bestowed upon him, there are others he hopes can get more out it than him. From his two children to the young wrestlers in his program, he wants them to see what can happen when you don’t give up even when times get hard.
That is a lesson he also hopes the youth boys and girls back in his hometown of Lawton can take from this honor as well.
“I want them to see once you start something stick with it. You never know what’s going to open up for you,” Hinson said. “Stick with it, work hard. Learn about wins, learn about losses. But the main thing I want out of my kids is how are they going to respond. I look at it as a life sport. You’re going to have some disappointments in life and you’ll have your happy times in life. My hashtag is are you disappointed or are you motivated.”
Hinson said these are the lessons he learned when he began wrestling in Lawton. At that time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lawton was producing elite-level wrestling talent and once he stepped foot into their world, he learned hard lessons that would follow him throughout his life.
“All those schools were very competitive, man. Just me stepping in, it was like baptism by fire on that mat,” Hinson said. “You get who you get and you take your wounds, you get your battle scars, you get battle-tested. That’s the one thing I want to say, you get battle-tested in Lawton because they show you a lot of grit.”
From Central Junior High to Eisenhower High School, Hinson came across coaches such as Ellis Holt, Joe Zuspann, George Vasilauskas and David Bear, who all had an influence on him.
While at Eisenhower, Hinson claimed two state wrestling championships. He also became a three-time Junior Freestyle All-American and Junior Freestyle Nationals champion before graduating in 1993.
Hinson then set his sights on the collegiate ranks. With offers from elite programs across the country, he chose to follow legendary coach Bobby Douglas to Iowa State.
During his four years with the Cyclones, Hinson was a four-time All-American as he finished in the top four every year of his career. His best finish was runner-up his sophomore season.
Hinson also won the Big 8/Big 12 championships three times.
Hinson ranks fourth on Iowa State’s all-time career wins list and was ISU’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1998. He was also a USA Senior Level All-American and two-time world team qualifier.
When Hinson got the call that he was being nominated for the hall of fame, he thought he was being “punked.” Once the married father of two realized it was real, that is when the emotion started to pour out.
“I went into wrestling not knowing much, but I knew how it made me feel about myself. I could walk straight and tall knowing that I was wrestler because wrestling is hard,” Hinson said. “It puts you through a lot of life lessons, perseverance, learning about yourself mentally.”
Along with 2020 being plagued with COVID-19, Hinson also saw social unrest erupt around the country after the death of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement officers.
Hinson’s biggest blow came when his mother (Normanda Hinson) passed away during the summer before he was nominated.
Yet, it was her words that rang in his head when he got the news that he had persevered and made it in.
“She would say ‘hey baby, you stuck it out.’ When things got hard when she was around, she told me to keep at it,” Hinson said. “She wasn’t that rah, rah type, but she would give me some words of wisdom that would soak in. She would tell me there’s nothing you can’t get through. That’s how it reflects around the culture of wrestling. You have to keep chipping away at it.”
Michael Kinney Media