Welker receives national acclaim for wrestling book

WHEELING — Dr. Bill Welker was, and still is, a great ambassador of high school wrestling. He recently retired after a 40-year career as a referee and later as a rules interpreter and clinician for the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.

However, Welker, a former Pennsylvania state wrestling champion at Shamokin High School, did more than decide matches during his elongated career. He also helped promote the sport by penning a weekly column — ‘Mat Talk’ — that appeared in the local newspapers.

“I just love the sport of wrestling, especially at the high school level,” Welker said. “I grew up in the sport and then my sons competed. Now my grandson is wrestling.”

While writing the column served as a hobby to start, his love for journalism grew. The Wheeling resident and retired English teacher has authored several books on his beloved sport, but it was his last that drew national acclaim.

“I had a form sent to me on my computer and thought I should enter to see just how good of a writer I was,” Welker explained, referring to the 6th annual Beverly Hills International Book Awards. “I sent in my entry and was told it would take a few weeks to determine the winners.”

Welker’s entry “The Sparrow’s Spirit” won first place in the Sports Category. It details the reflections on prayer and perseverance in a champion wrestler’s lifetime.

“The book was a two-year project, developing a central theme. It took a lot of brainstorming and organizing the chapters in a logical fashion,” he said. “I was extremely surprised when my book was selected as the winner.”

“The Sparrow’s Spirit” is dedicated to all the students that I have taught and coached for 40 years. They were the inspiration for all my professional endeavors to develop their minds and bodies, Welker said in the book’s opening.

“These are the sparrows that work very hard and they have the spirit where they don’t give up,” he noted. “Usually they find jobs later on in life that they are very good at. Not everyone is destined to be an eagle.

“I really enjoyed coaching and teaching the kids that needed the help … the one’s that struggled,” he stressed. “Anyone can teach a smart kid.”

He said the contest usually has just one winner, but if there are two or three books that are close in the judge’s minds, they will select finalists.

“I thought I was being notified as a finalist. I was super pleased. I couldn’t believe it,” he added.

“The email said it was for finalists and winners only. I was a little hesitant to open it at first, but then I got really excited because I thought I was going to be a finalist. Then, to find out I was the winner, I just could not believe it.

“It meant a lot to me because I have received seven state (W.Va.) awards as a sportswriter and two national awards, but this was special for me because it was saying that I can write anything, and I’m not that bad at it. I can do it. In other words, it’s being accepted by non-wrestling people that were judges that this was a good piece of literary work. That made me feel great.”

Welker was named the 1990 West Virginia Official of the Year and has also been honored as the 2001 Section 2 Distinguished Active Official and 2002 National Wrestling Official of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine.

In 2003, he was selected as the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Wrestling Official of the Year.

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