Sometimes in sports you get called into duty. And usually the folks getting called are much more ready than they even believe.
In the winter of 1997, after five years of coaching a local youth wrestling club and having spent the past decade closely following her own son’s career, Barbara Brummet was approached about this idea:
Why not become a wrestling referee? The idea was floated by Nick Rallo, a seasoned referee himself.
“One day he said, ‘Just because (her son) Kenny is about to graduate, you can’t be done with this sport,’” Brummet recalled.
And now look. The 2023 winter marks yet another for Brummet as a wrestling official, and her success – and reputation as one of the state’s best – is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Brummet with the Class of 2023.
A graduate of Hazelwood High School, Brummet was only the second woman ever to become a wrestling official, working Missouri State High School Activities Association events from 1997 to 2014 and returning in 2018.
She has been a member of the St. Louis Wrestling Officials Association and was active with the Illinois Officials Registration from 2002 to 2014.
Additionally, Brummet is a former registered NCAA official and worked matches for Missouri Baptist University, Missouri Valley College and Lindenwood University in Missouri, and at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and McMurray State in Jacksonville, Ill.
Her career includes numerous tournaments. Among them were AAU Missouri youth state tournaments, AAU folkstyle Nationals in Detroit, the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association National Championships, the AAU Scholastic (Disney) Duals in Florida, the World of Wrestling Nationals in Reno, Nev., the elite Beast of the East in Delaware and 12 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships. Brummet has served on the Board of Directors of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. She also is the head official of the Columbia-based Wonder Woman tournament that is known as the largest all-female high school wrestling tournament in the country. And in 2018, she was inducted into the Missouri chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
So, why did she ever set foot on the mat?
“I was happy just being a high school wrestling mom,” Brummet said. “The bottom line was somebody was there for my kid. So I decided I would be there for somebody else’s kids.”
Talk about an undertaking, especially in a male-dominated sport that did not add girls wrestling – at least in MSHSAA – until 2018.
After all, wrestling officials not only must know a ton: what constitutes a two-point takedown, a one-point escape, a two-point reversal, back points (a two-count for two points, a five-count for three points), as well as illegal holds, overtime rules and – arguably most importantly – how to handle coaches in the heat of battle.
Fortunately, Brummet was well-prepared. Trips to numerous tournaments and camps over the years allowed her to learn the scoring system and, along the way, the rules.
Plus, when her son reached middle school age, Hazelwood athletic director Ken Green asked her to lead the local youth club with Jack Wehmer. Brummet accepted, and that role lasted five years.
“I knew a lot more than I gave myself credit for,” Brummet said of her transition into officiating. “And on Senior Night for Kenny, when we were center mat, he said, ‘Thanks for the best 10 years of my life.’”
That – along with seeing the hard work of young wrestlers – motivated Brummet to accept the challenge of refereeing.
“I wasn’t as good as I thought I was,” Brummet said.
Fortunately, a group of referees helped ease her in. One was Rallo, and the others were Vince Lobosco, Dirk Dietz and PeeWee Rallo.
A breakthrough was an invitation to officiate at the Beast of the East in Delaware.
“At the Beast, you could hear a pin drop when I walked into the gym,” Brummet said.
Brummet succeeded by showing patience, and was skilled to know when to stand her ground on tough calls.
“All I asked was for six minutes and 28 feet,” Brummet said, referring to the length of a match and the area in the mat circle. “Wrestling people just want someone who is passionate and fair.”
Kenny and her daughter, Lindsey, offered a ton of support. So did numerous wrestlers, coaches and administrators.
“I still get butterflies every time I step on the mat,” Brummet said. “I don’t want to be less than 100 percent for any wrestler, because I want to be able to tell every mom that I was there for her kid.”