Olympic Wrestler Succumbs to Rare Cancer

Terry McCann: 1932 - 2006



Jun 08, 2006, 01:00 ET from Toastmasters International on behalf of the McCann family

    DANA POINT, Calif., June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Terrence J. McCann, an
 Olympic Gold Medal winner in freestyle wrestling and a leader in the sport
 of wrestling, died June 7 in his home in Dana Point, California. McCann
 helped found a new national governing body for the sport, the United States
 Wrestling Federation (now called USA Wrestling) and is credited with the
 United States' increasing involvement in the international wrestling scene.
 He spent four years as president of USA Wrestling and six years on the
 board of FILA, the international governing body of wrestling. In addition,
 he served for many years in various capacities on the United States Olympic
 Committee.
     "Terry was a tremendous wrestler as well as a leader within wrestling
 and the Olympic family," said Jim Scherr, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee
 in Colorado Springs. "His tenure as president (of USA Wrestling) marked a
 time of significant progress for the sport. He was a well-respected leader
 within the Olympic family and rose to the top of the USOC. He was noted for
 his honesty and passion for the National Governing Bodies and the athletes.
 He hired me to serve as executive director of USA Wrestling in 1990. I am
 proud to call him a mentor and a friend. I would not have the opportunity
 to serve in my present capacity were it not for Terry."
     It is ironic that the job that funded his dreams of winning a Gold
 Medal in wrestling is said to have caused his asbestos-related cancer.
 McCann, of Dana Point, California, won the 1960 Gold Medal after working at
 an oil refinery in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late 1950s while training for the
 Olympics. In April 2005, McCann was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare
 cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Shortly after the diagnosis, he joined
 a class action lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers and became a
 spokesman against a proposal before Congress to impose limits on litigation
 against those companies. He appeared recently in a national television
 commercial denouncing the proposal.
     McCann's legacy in the sport of wrestling almost didn't happen. The day
 of the 1960 Olympic trials, he nearly missed competing because of illness
 and a debilitating knee injury. Against all odds, he won the test and went
 on to score a dramatic Olympic victory in Rome. After his heady
 accomplishment, McCann said he learned a lesson about success -- "That it
 is a journey, and that having arrived at a high point guarantees nothing
 about the rest of the trip."
     A fellow Olympic wrestler and coach, Werner Holzer, calls McCann "the
 greatest of them all."
     "During my 50 years in the sport of wrestling, as an athlete, coach and
 administrator, I have seen all the great wrestlers," Holzer says. "Some of
 them had great technique, others were incredibly tenacious and had great
 endurance; some had tremendous strength, still others had catlike speed,
 agility and balance. Terry had it all; he was the most complete wrestler,
 the one who excelled the most in every aspect of the sport."
     "Although his stature was small, his attitude, confidence, courage and
 leadership while representing the sport both nationally and internationally
 was that of a giant," recalls Lee Roy Smith, a 1983 World Silver Medalist
 who coached for Arizona State University and the U.S. National Freestyle
 Team and is now executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. "He always felt it was important for anyone
 involved in the sport to conduct himself in an ethical and sportsmanlike
 way, yet no one wanted to win more than he did."
     McCann took great delight in helping young wrestlers. He was a
 volunteer coach of Greco-Roman wrestling at the Minnesota Wrestling Club
 and later of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the Mayor Daley Youth
 Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, where McCann was born and grew up. Under
 his direction the Youth Foundation won six consecutive freestyle national
 championships and five Greco-Roman national championships. He also coached
 contenders in World, Pan-American and Olympic games, with six of the
 wrestlers earning top medals.
     "We often spoke about training and coaching philosophies and what types
 of strategies and techniques each of our U.S. wrestlers needed to defeat a
 particular opponent," says Smith. "The record book shows that during his
 tenure as president of USA Wrestling and as a member of FILA Bureau, the
 U.S. Freestyle Team experienced one of its most successful eras in world
 competition."
     Russ Hellickson, a 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist in wrestling, an NBC
 Olympic wrestling commentator and wrestling coach at Ohio State University
 since 1986, credits McCann for his success. "My continued involvement in
 wrestling is a direct result of the encouragements and teachings of Terry
 McCann," he wrote in a letter supporting McCann's nomination to the
 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977. "He served as the wrestling coach of the
 Mayor Daley Youth Foundation during my early years of international
 competition. Without his urgings and confidence, I am certain that I would
 not have continued to compete in wrestling."
     After his Olympic victory McCann worked for various associations. In
 1975 he was named executive director of Toastmasters International, a
 not-for-profit organization headquartered in Southern California that helps
 people develop their communication and leadership skills. After retiring in
 2001, he served for two years as executive director of the Surf Industry
 Manufacturers Association (SIMA), the official working trade association of
 more than 300 surf industry suppliers. An avid surfer, McCann was active in
 Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, serving as the Foundation's
 president from 1993 to 1997.
     McCann is survived by his wife of 52 years, Lucille; seven children; 18
 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother and two sisters.
     Photos available upon request.
 
 

SOURCE Toastmasters International on behalf of the McCann family
    DANA POINT, Calif., June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Terrence J. McCann, an
 Olympic Gold Medal winner in freestyle wrestling and a leader in the sport
 of wrestling, died June 7 in his home in Dana Point, California. McCann
 helped found a new national governing body for the sport, the United States
 Wrestling Federation (now called USA Wrestling) and is credited with the
 United States' increasing involvement in the international wrestling scene.
 He spent four years as president of USA Wrestling and six years on the
 board of FILA, the international governing body of wrestling. In addition,
 he served for many years in various capacities on the United States Olympic
 Committee.
     "Terry was a tremendous wrestler as well as a leader within wrestling
 and the Olympic family," said Jim Scherr, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee
 in Colorado Springs. "His tenure as president (of USA Wrestling) marked a
 time of significant progress for the sport. He was a well-respected leader
 within the Olympic family and rose to the top of the USOC. He was noted for
 his honesty and passion for the National Governing Bodies and the athletes.
 He hired me to serve as executive director of USA Wrestling in 1990. I am
 proud to call him a mentor and a friend. I would not have the opportunity
 to serve in my present capacity were it not for Terry."
     It is ironic that the job that funded his dreams of winning a Gold
 Medal in wrestling is said to have caused his asbestos-related cancer.
 McCann, of Dana Point, California, won the 1960 Gold Medal after working at
 an oil refinery in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late 1950s while training for the
 Olympics. In April 2005, McCann was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare
 cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Shortly after the diagnosis, he joined
 a class action lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers and became a
 spokesman against a proposal before Congress to impose limits on litigation
 against those companies. He appeared recently in a national television
 commercial denouncing the proposal.
     McCann's legacy in the sport of wrestling almost didn't happen. The day
 of the 1960 Olympic trials, he nearly missed competing because of illness
 and a debilitating knee injury. Against all odds, he won the test and went
 on to score a dramatic Olympic victory in Rome. After his heady
 accomplishment, McCann said he learned a lesson about success -- "That it
 is a journey, and that having arrived at a high point guarantees nothing
 about the rest of the trip."
     A fellow Olympic wrestler and coach, Werner Holzer, calls McCann "the
 greatest of them all."
     "During my 50 years in the sport of wrestling, as an athlete, coach and
 administrator, I have seen all the great wrestlers," Holzer says. "Some of
 them had great technique, others were incredibly tenacious and had great
 endurance; some had tremendous strength, still others had catlike speed,
 agility and balance. Terry had it all; he was the most complete wrestler,
 the one who excelled the most in every aspect of the sport."
     "Although his stature was small, his attitude, confidence, courage and
 leadership while representing the sport both nationally and internationally
 was that of a giant," recalls Lee Roy Smith, a 1983 World Silver Medalist
 who coached for Arizona State University and the U.S. National Freestyle
 Team and is now executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. "He always felt it was important for anyone
 involved in the sport to conduct himself in an ethical and sportsmanlike
 way, yet no one wanted to win more than he did."
     McCann took great delight in helping young wrestlers. He was a
 volunteer coach of Greco-Roman wrestling at the Minnesota Wrestling Club
 and later of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the Mayor Daley Youth
 Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, where McCann was born and grew up. Under
 his direction the Youth Foundation won six consecutive freestyle national
 championships and five Greco-Roman national championships. He also coached
 contenders in World, Pan-American and Olympic games, with six of the
 wrestlers earning top medals.
     "We often spoke about training and coaching philosophies and what types
 of strategies and techniques each of our U.S. wrestlers needed to defeat a
 particular opponent," says Smith. "The record book shows that during his
 tenure as president of USA Wrestling and as a member of FILA Bureau, the
 U.S. Freestyle Team experienced one of its most successful eras in world
 competition."
     Russ Hellickson, a 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist in wrestling, an NBC
 Olympic wrestling commentator and wrestling coach at Ohio State University
 since 1986, credits McCann for his success. "My continued involvement in
 wrestling is a direct result of the encouragements and teachings of Terry
 McCann," he wrote in a letter supporting McCann's nomination to the
 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977. "He served as the wrestling coach of the
 Mayor Daley Youth Foundation during my early years of international
 competition. Without his urgings and confidence, I am certain that I would
 not have continued to compete in wrestling."
     After his Olympic victory McCann worked for various associations. In
 1975 he was named executive director of Toastmasters International, a
 not-for-profit organization headquartered in Southern California that helps
 people develop their communication and leadership skills. After retiring in
 2001, he served for two years as executive director of the Surf Industry
 Manufacturers Association (SIMA), the official working trade association of
 more than 300 surf industry suppliers. An avid surfer, McCann was active in
 Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, serving as the Foundation's
 president from 1993 to 1997.
     McCann is survived by his wife of 52 years, Lucille; seven children; 18
 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother and two sisters.
     Photos available upon request.
 
 SOURCE Toastmasters International on behalf of the McCann family