Wrestlers Without Borders has nominated Sydney’s own Barry Webb to join a host of other leading wrestlers in the Don Jung Hall of Merit. As the founder of Sydney’s only gay and lesbian wrestling group, the Harbour City Wrestling Club, Webb’s devotion to the sport is undeniable and well worthy of the accolade.
The Don Jung Hall of Merit was established last year to honour Don Jung, a wrestling coach and founder of the Golden Gate Wrestling Club in San Francisco, one of the first ever gay wrestling groups. The list of possible inductees this year is entirely American, except for Webb who was nominated for his 26 years of dedication to promoting wrestling and working to make it an all inclusive sport.
Webb was never trained in the art of wrestling but says the passion was always there.
Before I came out I was notorious for wrestling all my flatmates, he told Sydney Star Observer.
I was never taught but I just loved it. I think it’s one of those things that kids have a natural love for and I just never grew out of it.
It was during the 1982 Gay Games that Webb, who was participating as a swimmer, started drafting plans to start Sydney’s first gay wrestling club, though it took many years to see the dream come to fruition.
There were hardly any sports going then so I was part of starting up several of the gay sporting clubs, he said.
Even though I always wanted to start a wrestling group I put it on the too difficult shelf for a while because it was such a tiny sport in Australia and I knew how hard it was going to be getting together a squad.
By 1995 though, spurred on by the enthusiasm of John English, the only gay wrestler Webb knew at the time, the Harbour City Wrestling Club had become a reality, albeit a small one with only six people present for the first session.
It was a good thing for Sydney though, with hosting nominations for the Gay Games around the corner. Wrestling is considered one of the core Olympic sports and so Sydney would have to show that it could not only provide a venue but a team to compete if it was to be considered as a host country.
After Sydney won the right to host the 2002 Gay Games, Webb worked alongside Jean Dermody from the Federation of Gay Games to ensure all was set to place Sydney on the worldwide map of wrestling destinations -“ a feat obviously remembered by Dermody who played a key part in establishing the Hall of Merit.
Dermody said of the nominees, We want to establish a tradition that reinforces our values by properly recognising those who have sacrificed the most for our mission, so that others will be inspired.
Webb certainly fulfills this criterion after building up the Harbour City Wrestlers from a pack of six to a group featuring 100-odd people on its mailing list.
Of the nomination Webb said he was surprised and felt very privileged.