It happens all the time in high school sports. A school starts a program, a new coach comes in and over time puts together a coaching staff. As the team begins to gain a reputation and the staff matures, another school swoops and grabs one of the up and coming assistants to bolster its program.
Walker Valley is no exception.
Mustangs assistant wrestling coach Bryant Blackmon is leaving Walker Valley to take over the program at Ooltewah being vacated coach Wendell Weathers, after 13 years directing the Owls.
“I’m excited about it. It’s a huge opportunity. Wendell has done some great things with that program and has really got it well established. They have a long tradition of producing tough kids and tough teams over the years. It’s a very, very big opportunity for me,” Blackmon said of his new wrestling home.
Weathers is stepping down to take an administrative position as dean of students. Blackmon will combine duties as head wrestling coach with his classroom job as economics teacher at Ooltewah.
The Ooltewah coach has had his eye on Blackmon and other coaches in the area for some time.
“He’s a fine young man. He is one of Cleveland/Bradley County’s best. I’ve been looking at Bryant for a long time. I think he is even a better coach than he is an accomplished wrestler. The way he coaches his wrestlers, and the way they respond to him tells me everything. You can tell where the respect is, and you can tell they love him,” Weathers said of the new Owls coach.
“I feel he can take us to a higher level than I could. I’m happy with what I’ve done with the program, but the right person can do an even better job. There is no doubt in my mind he is the right person for the job.”
Blackmon takes with him to the Owls an impressive resume beginning with his days as a Bradley Kids Club wrestler through his days as a Bradley Bear where his skills were honed under the direction of two of the best wrestlers to ever don a singlet, Steve Logdson and Turner Jackson.
From Bradley Central Blackmon furthered his career at Oklahoma state where he was part of national championship teams with the Cowboys under Head Coach John Smith.
Blackmon served a stint as head wrestling coach at Greenback, where his Cherokees finished third in the state A-AA duals.
He also wrestled on a pair of national championship teams under John Smith at Oklahoma State. Most recently he has been an assistant coach with Hank Raines to Alan Morris at Walker Valley.
Blackmon also has head coaching experience, having served a year at Greenback, where he took that team to a third-place finish in Tennessee’s Class A-AA state duals.
“He is the product of a great family and great community. For us to get a person like him speaks volumes for us. I want the people of Cleveland and Bradley County to know the high regard with have for that community,” said Weahters.
Blackmon is leaving the program he helped build from infancy and bring into state prominence. It was not an easy decision to make but one he feels will pay off in the long run.
“It is bittersweet for me. Al [Walker Valley head coach Alan Morris], [WV assistant coaches] Adams Rains and Danny Faye have been a huge part of my life for a very long time, not only in my life but my family’s life as well. Adam and I grew up together wrestling together. Al has coached me and [has] been a part of my career my entire life,” he said. “So, it’s definitely not an easy move in that sense but looking at the opportunity to be the head coach for a program like this and for a community like Ooltewah, it’s something I couldn’t pass up. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Morris said he is happy for his friend and assistant but acknowledged he is not surprised one of his coaches has been tapped as a head coach.
“I’ve known him since he was a little guy. It’s good to see him get this opportunity, but then again you hate to see him leave. It’s obviously something he wants to do, and I will support him and wish him the best. I think he will do a good job down there like he did when he was up here,” he reiterated. “I’ve felt all along, and I’ve been told by many people that we’ve had, if not the best, one of the best coaching staffs in the state. It’s not a surprise that either him or Coach [Adam] Rains has been picked up as a head coach. I know he’s ready and he will do a good job. Still, you hate to see one of your friends go, but you’re happy he’s getting the opportunity.”
As for Blackmon, he takes over an established program he hopes will continue to thrive and grow with his added experience.
“That’s my goal. I expect us to go out and compete, even at an early stage. Wendell has done a great job as far as getting kids ready and making sure they are always ready to compete,” he said.
“Friday, when I met with my team the very first thing one of them said was, ‘Those colors look good on you coach.’ It’s a good feeling that they are excited and I’m excited. It is definitely going to be a big change for me and for them but I foresee good things happening for us.”