The Wabash College wrestling team and staff was recently honored at the National Wrestling Coaches Association annual convention. The Little Giants received the organization's "Solid Service" award as part of the Best of Brand Awards program created by Elite Level Sports Marketing.

The "Solid Service" award recognizes programs that best captured on video its involvement in a community service project. The award is designed to prize programs that recognize the importance of giving back to its local community and go above and beyond when doing so. Wabash has participated in JDRF walks the past two seasons, working as "Team Kelsey" in honor of head coach Brian Anderson's daughter who was diagnosed with diabetes over two years ago. Wabash wrestler Conner Lefever, a 2014 Midwest Regional champion and NCAA Division III national qualifier at 174 pounds, is also diabetic.

The wrestling team provided additional support for JDRF by creating an Outdoor Takedown Tournament in the fall of 2013, moving wrestling mats to the Mud Hollow Stadium soccer and lacrosse field and raising money through donations throughout the tournament held prior to a home Wabash football game. The combined efforts collected a total of $8,000 for JDRF, more than double the original goal.

Criteria for determining the "Solid Service" Award recipient included a panel of judges who assessed video performance in addition to an online voting competition.

The Best of Brands program featured eight total awards. Wabash was also a top-eight finalist for Social Media of the Year Award in the Assistant Coach category, with Danny Irwin receiving the nomination. He advanced through four rounds of national voting to the semifinals as a top-four finisher.

"Coach Irwin has done such a great job in helping to build the brand of the Wabash wrestling program," said ELSM CEO Coyte Cooper. "As a result of his efforts, Irwin is now consistently seen as one of the top coaches in the country in social media marketing and has been a great asset to the sport of wrestling."

Anderson shared his excitement for the team and coaching staff's efforts.

"I am extremely proud of this accomplishment for the wrestling program," he said. "A lot of planning, organization, energy and buy in from the entire program went into this. It's nice for the program and all who were involved to be recognized on such a big stage. The marketing and social media of Wabash wrestling has helped take us to new levels and I thank Coyte Cooper and the ELSM for creating this program and set of awards."

Wabash also was a finalist for the "Masterful Mission" Award, honoring teams who continuously demonstrate a consistent message supporting the team's mission. A committee analyzes each nominee's performance using social media, program campaigns, and use of supplementary materials including graphics and videos to select a winner.

These awards and nominations cap what proved arguably to be the best year in the history of the Little Giants' wrestling history. Wabash posted its highest team finish at the 2014 NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, placing ninth overall. Riley Lefever won the individual championship at 184 pounds, becoming the first Little Giant wrestler to win a national title. A total of six Wabash wrestlers competed at nationals, matching the highest total in school history.