Longtime soccer and wrestling referee Haig Nighohossian, of Granite City, recently received the honor of his career.
Nighohossian, 66, was inducted June 28 into the National High School Hall of Fame in Denver. He is entering his 40th season working as an Illinois High School Association official and remains active.
"It was just unbelievable," said Nighohossian, a 1964 graduate of Granite City High School. "It's something you never think about when you do this over all the years. The national federation (of high schools) did a great job of setting it up."
Others inducted included St. Louis volleyball and basketball legend Kristin Folkl Kaburakis, former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, NBA star Chauncey Billups and former Olympic hurdler and sprinter Harrison Dillard.
Nighohossian received a medallion from IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman and a plaque from the national federation.
"Haig Nighohossian is one of the most decorated and respected officials in state history and worthy of this prestigious honor," Hickman said in a statement released by the IHSA. "Haig exemplifies the virtues that we hope to see in all of our high school sports officials. He epitomizes integrity, fairness and sportsmanship."
Nighohossian, a graduate of MacMurray College in Jacksonville, worked six years as an official before joining the IHSA. He has worked 49 state tournaments --32 in boys and girls soccer, 17 in wrestling.
Nighohossian officiated the Class 1A state-championship boys soccer game last fall, where Alton Marquette defeated Hinckley-Big Rock 4-3. He officiated the first state-championship boys soccer game in 1972 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Nighohossian has been recognized three times (1990, 1997, 2001) as the national federation's Illinois Official of the Year Award in boys soccer.
Nighohossian, of course, is fond of both soccer and wrestling.
"Each one has its uniqueness about it," he said, ranking soccer slightly higher. "I would lean more toward soccer because I played soccer in college."
Still, Nighohossian is a member of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame.
Nighohossian spent eight seasons as the head girls soccer coach at Althoff High School in Belleville, his last season being in 2000. He previously was an assistant girls soccer coach at Granite City for eight years.
"Coaching was a little bit more demanding," Nighohossian said. "It got to the point where it was too time-consuming to do both of them (coaching and officiating)."
Nighohossian plans to work between 18 and 25 games during the upcoming boys soccer season. Physically, he said he feels fine with the exception of occasional knee discomfort that crops up after working three games a week on a hard surface, which was the case last season after the summer drought.
"I've been very fortunate," Nighohossian said. "I've stayed healthy enough to be able to continue to do it."