Wrestling with Adversity

January 15, 2016 – by Abby Hanson ’16

Roger Brigham ’76 has never let adversity set him back. He credits a “warrior spirit” for driving him to a trailblazing career as a journalist and great success as a wrestling coach and mentor, despite debilitating health issues that would have pinned many to the mat.

A wrestler since high school and at Ohio Wesleyan, where he earned two varsity letters, Brigham is a sports columnist for the Bay Area Reporter, a gay, lesbian, and bisexual newspaper covering local and national news and arts. Previously, he wrote for the Anchorage Daily News, where in 1982 he became the first openly gay sports journalist at a major metropolitan newspaper.

In July, Brigham, who majored in journalism and classical civilization at OWU, was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame for his “body of work in coaching, journalism, organizing and volunteering.” He was inducted into the Wrestlers WithOut Borders (WWB) Hall of Merit in 2008 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from WWB in 2014. In 2009, he received a Legacy Award from the Federation of Gay Games for his work in creating a youth wrestling program in San Francisco run by the Golden Gate Wrestling Club, a gay and lesbian club for freestyle wrestling.

I’ve gotten much more satisfaction out of teaching young wrestlers how to be happy and productive citizens.”

Roger Brigham ’76

Brigham’s accolades come despite a series of health complications over the years, including anemia, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and diabetes. He underwent daily dialysis, and in 2001 he had to have both hips replaced with titanium implants. Despite these setbacks, he continued to wrestle and eventually went on to compete and win a silver medal at the 2004 USA Wrestling Far Western Regional Championship.

More recently, he had triple-bypass surgery. “Through all of that, I’ve been able to continue my writing career [and] return to coaching,” Brigham says.

In 2013, after 23 years together, Brigham and his husband, Eduardo, were finally able to marry in a local church.

He says wrestling was the most important part of his experience at Ohio Wesleyan. The sport continues to play a prominent role in his life, as he is now a coach, and founded the Equality Coaching Alliance in 2011.

Of all these accomplishments, what makes him proudest?

“I’ve gotten much more satisfaction out of teaching young wrestlers how to be happy and productive citizens, to put service to others above service to self, and to take command of their lives…and mentoring reporters to help them be better and happier in their careers.”