As I watched Dale Bartley place the gold medal around my son’s neck after he won the 138-pound state championship in Greensboro on February 17th, I could not help realizing that I had just completed a thirty year journey in association with wrestling in Elkin. With this realization comes reflection on what has been, what is and what may be.
I came to Elkin High School for the 1987-1988 school year as a social studies teacher and coach. I continued in these capacities until I retired in February 2014 at the conclusion of the high school wrestling season. Since this time I have continued to involve myself in wrestling at my old school as a bus driver, photographer, consultant and media specialist. After thirty years of involvement I have identified certain undeniable characteristics about the culture of wrestling in our town.
Elkin wrestlers care about the perpetuation of wrestling in Elkin. Many of my former wrestlers and parents of wrestlers remain avid fans and are very supportive of the program. Dale Bartley, Josh Price, Adam Beshears and Cory Combs all were outstanding Elkin wrestlers who have given and continue to give back to their community as coaches at the youth, middle school and high school levels. Coach Matt Dunn and Dr. John Orta have been nice additions to our wrestling community. These men have invested countless hours and resources to assist those who are now walking in their footsteps.
By in large, wrestling in Elkin is generally ignored by most of the community. We had only four home high school events this season. After many years of media neglect (largely due to a lack of manpower at the newspaper and the general public’s demand for news about other winter sports), I served as a volunteer representative for Elkin wrestling to the Tribune to ensure that we would get some coverage. Wendy graciously obliged by printing my articles. I wish that I had taken the same approach with all the teams over the last thirty years. I regret that I did not do more to publicize the efforts of these hard working young men.
Despite the fact that we generally fly under the radar, we have had a considerable amount of success on an individual and team basis. The 2004 team won the dual team state championship. In 2016 and 2017 we were regional finalists in the dual team championships. In 2018 we advanced to the second round of the dual team tournament fielding only nine of the fourteen weight classes. Aaron Rabin (2010), Said Javier (2016) and Jude Lloyd (2018) have won individual state championships. Javier (4th and 2nd), Lloyd (2nd, 3rd and 2nd), Mikey Grubb (2nd), Tyjae Townsend (3rd), Juan Anuario (4th and 3rd), Blake Frye (4th), Alex Lazaro Lopez (4th), Eric Gutkowski (6th), Josh Price (2nd),Todd Brown (4th) and Christopher O’Toole (2nd) have all stood on the podium flanking state champions from other schools. In the thirty years that I have been associated with the Elkin program forty-eight young men have qualified for and participated in the state individual tournament.
Supporters of Elkin wrestling, because we seem to struggle for opportunity and recognition, love the program with passion unmatched by those of other sports. One of our supporters has funded our last two sets of warm-ups and our last set of uniforms directly out of his own pocket when school funding was unavailable. We have paid tournament entry fees out of pocket to give kids the opportunity to wrestle against quality competition. We, the lovers of wrestling, have learned to take care of ourselves.
Wrestling teaches us that we earn anything that we achieve. The ideas that we are entitled to something or perhaps deserve something else are foreign to our constitution. This “blue-collar” spirit is something that truly makes our sport great and this disposition is the most important gift that the wrestler takes from this sport to apply to his life.
Wrestling is not a typical sport. It is a lifestyle of training, diet and sacrifice that few are willing to follow to aspire to the highest levels. Because it is unusual, it is often misunderstood by those who fail to see the values that it represents. Those who embrace the sport become part of a culture of it. Elkin has a handful of devoted individuals that whole-heartedly support this culture. I believe that this group will do all that they can to perpetuate opportunities for future generations.
Perry Lloyd is a parent of an Elkin wrestler and former coach for Elkin High School.