Three legendary wrestling officials to be honored

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – This weekend Section IV wrestling will hold its annual tournament with much more than championships in mind.

Although tickets will be punched to the New York State Championships at the Visions Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, three local officials with longtime ties to the sport will be honored. Elmira’s Emerson Baugher and brothers Mike and Mark Stephens will be awarded the 2024 Heritage Award by Section IV for their decades of outstanding contributions to wrestling.

Baugher, a graduate of Elmira Free Academy, first started officiating wrestling in 1976. For nearly 40 years, Baugher officiated 36 Section IV Championship Finals, 10 New York State Championships and was rated in the top three, seven times.

Emerson has also officiated in college across all NCAA divisions in I, II, and III. Baugher was also the New York State representative official at the Bethlehem High School Nationals.

Mike Stephens has been a mainstay in the sport for several years. The Elmira Southside graduate coached wrestling for 14 years at Elmira Southside, Edison, Spencer-Van Etten and Horseheads. In his 34-year officiating career, Mike was able to officiate 20 New York State qualifiers and four New York State Championships.

Mike also serves on the Executive Board for the Section IV Wrestling Officials Association, a role he’s had for the past 16 years. Stephens is completing a term of six years on the Executive Board of the New York State Wrestling Officials Association.

Stephens’ brother, Mark Stephens, was the first-ever New York State Wrestling Champion in 1966 at Elmira Southside. After competing at The University of Maryland for one year, Mark served in The United States Marine Corp in Vietnam in 1969-70.

Mark went on to become a National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee through the New York Chapter in 2013. Stephens was an assistant coach at Elmira Southside from 1976-1988 and started local clubs, the Glider Three Style Wrestling Club and the Cement Factory helping guide the future of the sport.

As an official, Stephens refereed countless local, regional and national matches for over 30 years. He has officiated high school, college and USA Freestyle and Greco-Roman State Championships. He has officiated NCAA Division III National Dual Finals and NCAA qualifiers. Mark has also served on the NYS Empire Games Central Region coaching staff for 20 years.

Sadly, Stephens died in 2013 but his legacy along with both his brother Mike and friend Emerson’s, will live on forever. This weekend, all three will received one of the sport’s most prestigious honors at Section IV wrestling’s biggest event. An honor that will stand the test of time for all that each of them gave to the sport.

The 2024 Section IV Wrestling Championships will be Saturday starting at 10 AM in Binghamton at the arena.

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