The male and female recipients of the annual Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards ceremony have been announced. The female recipient will be Lauren Chamberlain, U.S. Specialty Sports Association Pride professional fast pitch player who helped lead the University of Oklahoma Sooners to the National Championship in 2013. The male recipient is mixed martial artist Justin Wren.
Shannon Miller, the most decorated Olympic gymnast in American History, and Chris Herren, former player for the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, will be the keynote speakers. The master of ceremonies will be Chris Lincoln, a sportscaster, former sports director and sports programming producer.
The awards are named after Henry P. Iba, former Oklahoma State University basketball coach and coach of three U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He was an unparalleled success as a coach, leader and citizen, and these awards recognize and honor athletes who best exemplify a high degree of citizenship in his image.
This prestigious black-tie-optional event will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa on June 26. It’s the major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Tulsa with proceeds benefiting the Rotary Club of Tulsa Foundation, which supports local non profits, statewide initiatives benefitting young people and the club’s International Projects Committee.
Mixed Martial Artist () Justin Wren is a fighter in more ways than one. Bullied as a child, he channeled his frustrations into sports, winning numerous championships in the sport of wrestling under the guidance of two Olympic gold medalists: Kenny Monday, a three-time All-American and National Champion from Oklahoma State University, and Kendall Cross, a three-time National Champion. Altogether, Wren won 10 state titles in Texas and was a five-time All American and two-time National Champion.
He went on to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and was recruited by national wrestling legend Cael Sanderson to Iowa State University. But a series of events, including injuries, led Wren to pursue a new dream of becoming an Ultimate Fighting Championship () fighter.
During his days, Wren appeared on “The Ultimate Fighter” as a contestant known as “The Viking.” But the painful struggle of his past led him to a dark place of depression and addiction. When his life and career fell apart, he found himself at a men’s retreat where he found new purpose – fighting for the forgotten people of the Congo. The Mbuti Pygmy tribe, or as Wren describes them, “the most bullied people on the planet,” became his new family, and he channeled all his passion and energy into fighting for their freedom.
Five years later, Wren returned to the cage, fueled by his love for the Pygmy people and his desire to give them a voice. With an impressive 16-2 record as an fighter, Wren is now known as “The Big Pygmy” and is a Bellator Heavyweight Contender. He uses his platform to raise awareness and support for the forgotten people of the Congo, and to inspire fans worldwide to join him in his fight to end the global water crisis.
Wren founded Fight for the Forgotten foundation to help the Pygmy people and later became involved with Water4. He and his wife moved to Oklahoma City in 2016 to work closely with Water4, a non profit that states, “Our mission lives at the crossroads of our heart and our actions, of our desire to share our faith, and our passion to solve the world water crisis.” He was just named its national spokesperson. According to Wren, “Our team in the Congo has now drilled 62 water wells. Last year alone, Water4 empowered 44 well drilling teams, comprised of 370 Africans from 16 different African nations to have sustainable jobs, and drill 690 water wells, and to provide access to clean water to over 172,000 of their fellow countrymen.
That’s empowerment. They are creating their own businesses, having their own jobs, and being the very solution to the problem they face on a day-to-day basis. Those men and women on our teams are the heroes!”
In 2015, his book, “Fight for the Forgotten,” was released. Written along with veteran sports journalist Loretta Hunt, the book details Wren’s account of faith, redemption, empowerment, and overwhelming love as he set out on an international mission to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.
The female recipient will be Lauren Chamberlain, USSSA Pride professional fast pitch player who helped lead the Oklahoma Sooners to the National Championship in 2013.
Chamberlain enters her third season with the USSSA Pride. She was drafted first overall out of the University of Oklahoma in the 2015 College Draft by the USSSA Pride.
She finished her second season with an on-base percentage of .347. Chamberlain finished her rookie season with 11 ’s, 5 home runs, 18 hits, a .300 on base percentage, and a .205 batting average.
At OU, Chamberlain finished her career with an record 95 home runs and .960 slugging percentage. In annals, she ended her college career fifth in runs scored, ninth in walks and 10th in . She owns the Big 12 record for home runs, slugging, runs scored, , total bases and walks. She recorded school records for career on-base percentage and extra-base hits. She holds the third-highest batting average in OU history and sixth-highest in Big 12 history.
While at OU she was a four–time Division 1 All-American, a 2013 Player of the Year Finalist and helped lead the Sooners to the National Championship in 2013.
She was also named the Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year, Finalist for Woman of the Year, nominee for the Honda Cup Award and ’s nominee for Best Record Breaking Performance.
Chamberlain was awarded the 2016 Jennie Finch Award for leadership and humility on and off the field during her second season with USSSA Pride. According to her website, her ultimate goal is to start transforming girls into women, not only athletically in softball but emotionally and mentally off the field.
She founded the Lo Chamberlain of Norman Scholarship Fund specifically designed for the Boys and Girls Club of Norman where kids have the opportunity to apply for scholarships after high school. Chamberlain said she started this scholarship fund because of the relationships that she formed with the kids of the when she did an internship at the club while in college.
She is also involved in Fields and Futures, an Oklahoma City non profit that revamps public schools’ athletic fields and improves resources and professional development for the district’s coaches, creating new opportunities for students to join a team and benefit from that experience. In addition, she is involved in Oklahoma Cleats for Kids, providing gently used sports equipment to teams.
For tickets or table sponsorship information, contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa at 918-584-7642, email email@example.com or visit ibaawards.com.
The Iba Awards were created in 1994 by the Rotary Club of Tulsa to recognize an influential male and a female premier athlete for their success in their sport, and more importantly, for being positive role models who give back to their communities – not only by donating to worthy causes, but also by being personally dedicated and involved in their chosen charities.
For tickets or table sponsorship information, contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa at 918-584-7642 or online at ibaawards.com.