Don Elia
Don Elia
Sport(s): Wrestling,Football.Track
Year of Graduation: 1958-1961
Year Inducted: 2000

*Induction Speech by Randy Lambert*

 

 

DON ELIA

WRESTLING, FOOTBALL, TRACK

1958 – 61

 

IN1958, A YOUNG FRESHMAN FROM HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, BEGAN AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER AS A 3 SPORT ATHLETE AT MARYVILLE COLLEGE.  IN ALL, DON ELIA GARNERED 9 LETTERS AS HE COMPETED FOR 3 SEASONS IN FOOTBALL, WRESTLING, AND TRACK, AS A 165 LB LINEMAN, HE PLAYED ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FOOTBALL.  FOR LINEMAN’S STANDARDS, EVEN IN THE LATTER 1950’S, DON ELIA WAS NOT CONSIDERED BIG, BUT HE HAD THE STRENGTH AND QUICKNESS TO BE VERY EFFECTIVE.  HE WAS AN OFFENSIVE GUARD AND HELPED OPEN HOLES FOR THE LIKES OF KEN BERRY, ALBIE REESE, AND DON PHELPS.  ON DEFENSE, HE STARTED AT NOSE GUARD.  HIS CAT- LIKE MOVES WOULD ENABLE HIM TO GET TO THE BALL CARRIER BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE FOR A LOSS SEVERAL TIMES A GAME.  HIS FOOTBALL CAREER ENDED WITH THE ROCKET BOWL IN HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA IN 1960.  THE FIGHTING SCOTS RECORDED THE FIRST BOWL VICTORY IN THE SCHOOL’S FOOTBALL HISTORY BY DEFEATING MILLSAPS

19-0.  ONCE FOOTBALL WAS OVER, DON WOULD LAY DOWN HIS HELMET AND SHOULDER PADS AND HIT THE MAT AS A WRESTLER, HE WASN’T JUST GOOD--HE WAS GREAT.  HIS CAREER WRESTLING RECORD FOR THE SCOTSMAN WAS 58 WINS AND SIX LOSSES.  AT ONE POINT IN HIS 3 YEARS OF COMPETITION, HE WON 28 CONSECUTIVE MATCHES.  DON WRESTLED IN THE 157 LB. AND 167 LB. CLASS DIVISIONS.  EVERY YEAR HE WOULD LEAD HIS TEAM IN PINS AND WINS.  HE WAS KNOWN FOR HIS QUICK STARTS.  IN ONE MATCH HE HAD HIS OPPONENT ON HIS BACK IN 4 SECONDS AND RECEIVED THE PIN WITH ONLY 7 SECONDS EXPIRED FROM THE PERIOD. 

EACH YEAR THE SEASON CONCLUDED WITH THE GATHERING OF WRESTLERS FROM OVER 40 COLLEGES AT THE SOUTHEASTERN INTERCOLLEGIATE WRESTLING ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONSHIP.  EACH YEAR, DON WOULD WRESTLE HIS WAY INTO THE FINALS, ONLY TO FALL ONE MATCH SHORT.

FROM WRESTLING, DON WOULD MOVE TO THE FIELD EVENTS FOR THE TRACK TEAM.  HIS STRENGTH AND ATHLETCISM ALLOWED HIM TO BE VERY COMPETITIVE IN THE SHOT PUT, JAVELIN, AND DISCUS. 

OBVIOUSLY, DON LOVED ATHLETICS AND COMPETITION.  HE RETURNED HOME AND BEGAN COACHING AT HACKETTSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL.  HIS DESIRE TO GRADUATE FROM MARYVILLE BROUGHT HIM BACK IN 1967.  HE COMPLETED HIS DEGREE WHILE BEING AN ASSISTANT COACH IN FOOTBALL AND WRESTLING.  IN1970, HE TOOK OVER AS HEAD COACH OF THE WRESTLING PROGRAM.  IN SEVEN SEASONS, HE DIRECTED HIS TEAM TO A

93-35-1 RECORD WITH SIX ALL-AMERICANS.  FROM MARYVILLE, DON MOVED NORTH AND WAS NAMED THE HEAD WRESTLING COACH AT CARSON-NEWMAN.  IN 22 YEARS OF COACHING, HE HAS COMPILED OVER 275 WINS AND GUIDED THE EAGLES TO 12 TOP TWENTY FINISHES IN THE NCAA DIVISION II NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS.  HE HAS COACHED 65 ALL AMERICANS.  BECAUSE OF HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE SPORT OF WRESTLING, HE WAS RECENTLY INDUCTED INTO THE NATIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME.  AT CARSON NEWMAN COLLEGE, DON ALSO SERVES AS DIRECTOR OF FINANCIAL AID.  HE AND HIS WIFE COLLEEN, HAVE TWO CHILDREN JOHN AND CHRISTY.  THERE IS NO QUESTION, DON ELIA WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS ONE OF THE GREATEST ATHLETES TO WEAR THE ORANGE AND GARNET. 

WE ALSO WANT TO RECOGNIZE DON’S CONTRIBUTIONS AT MARYVILLE COLLEGE AS A COACH AND FINANCIAL AID DIRECTOR.  HE WORKED HARD IN MAKING THE MC EDUCATION AFFORDABLE FOR ALL PRESPECTIVE STUDENTS.  HE ALSO WAS A COACH AND MENTOR FOR MANY ATHLETES THROUGH THE YEARS.  COACH ELIA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO OUR LIFE.  YOU HAVE DEFINITELY HELPED BUILD ON THE LEGACY OF MC ATHLETICS.