BOONE — There was a time when the high school wrestling team from Boone was unbeatable.
The architect for that program, the late Steve Gabriel, will be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame May 3 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Gabriel and 11 other inductees will be honored at the ceremony.
Gabriel, who was originally from Lincolnton, founded and coached the wrestling program at Appalachian High School. He led Appalachian High to a 140-0 record from 1952-65, when Appalachian High was closed and Watauga High School opened. He coached 54 state champions during his tenure at Appalachian High School.
His coaching career at Appalachian High was interrupted from 1953-55 when he served in the U.S. Navy.
Gabriel went on to coach wrestling at Appalachian State University from 1965-74, where he posted a record of 90-24-2. He led the Mountaineers to their first national tournament, which was at the NAIA level, during the 1970-71 season.
While at App State, Gabriel coached five wrestlers, Jim Whitmer (1966), George Sansone (1968), Walt Braine (1968), Brice Schlegal (1968, 1970 and 1971) and Herb Singerman (1970) NAIA All-American status.
While attending Appalachian State Teacher’s College as a student from 1948-52, he received the title of “Mr. Appalachian” and was named “Friendliest” of his senior class.
While playing athletics at ASTC, he lettered two years as the team’s starting quarterback and compiled a record of 40-4-1 while wrestling for the Mountaineers. He was inducted into the Appalachian State Athletics Hall of Fame and was given the Governor’s Award for Excellence in 1989 upon retirement.
Gabriel is also a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2004.
The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1963. It is located on the third floor of the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.