Involved in the sport of wrestling since he was a 6-year-old, Belleville native Mike Greenfield has few regrets about his athletic career.
With the help of many coaches along the way, Greenfield used his talent to win a pair of state titles at Althoff. He went on to a scholarship at Central Michigan University, then took his knowledge of the sport to the University of Nebraska, where he helped coach some of the top young wrestlers in the nation.
Now, more than three decades after strapping on the head gear for the first time, Greenfield is about to receive one of the top wrestling honors in Illinois.
Currently the director of programs and facilities at Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Greenfield will be inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame on Saturday at the Holiday Inn of Countryside in suburban Chicago.
Greenfield, 40, is one of three area wrestlers who will be honored. Jan Gitcho, of Granite City, and former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville wrestling great and head coach Booker Benford also are being inducted. Greenfield said he will not attend the ceremony.
“First of all, it’s a tremendous honor. When you look a some of the names of the people that are in the Hall of Fame, it’s really something,” Greenfield said. “To be included in that group is just very special. I actually received notice earlier this year that I had been selected, and then we (the HOF Class of 2017) were recognized before the semifinals of the state tournament.
“What makes it even better is to be going in with Booker and Jan. To have three people from Southern Illinois go in the same year shows that we got some respect from Northern Illinois. Sometimes wrestling in Southern Illinois doesn’t get that from the northern part.”
A 1995 graduate of Althoff, Greenfield won the Class A 145-pound state title as a junior, then won the 160-pound championship as a senior. At Central Michigan, he was a three-time Mid-American Conference champion, a three-time Division I national tournament qualifier and a two-time All-American.
Greenfield is a member of the Central Michigan Hall of Fame.
Throughout his competitive career, Greenfield learned wrestling can be a humbling sport.
“Everyone who has ever competed in this sport has lost, and not having your hand raised and having to walk back to your corner can be a humbling experience. But we’ve all done it,” Greenfield said. “The key is how are you going to react after losing. Are you going to quit, or are you going to work on your weaknesses and come back and do better the next time? That is a life lesson as well.”
After graduating, Greenfield was an assistant coach at Central Michigan for one year before moving to be an assistant coach at Nebraska through the 2010 season.
At Nebraska, Greenfield recruited 26 All-Americans, four NCAA Division I champions and one world and Olympic champion — Jordan Burroughs, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2012.
Greenfield is currently coaching the Belleville Little Devils Wrestling Program in the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation, where he was a four-time state tournament qualifier.
“Wrestling has been such a huge part of my life that I feel like I’ve given back and continue to do so,” he said.