Coach keeps Floyd wrestling from getting pinned
School had started last fall, and for a while there was no certainty that Floyd County High would have a wrestling team. The old coach had departed. No new coach had been hired, and candidates were not lining up at the gym door.
By Dec. 11, the Buffaloes were in a tri-meet with Timesland powers Christiansburg and Franklin County.
Rugged way to start a season to be sure, but at least the youthful Buffaloes had a coach. Alumnus Jacob Hawkins took over the program in time to conduct some open gyms — then it was on to the campaign.
“It’s been a learning process for all of us,” said sophomore 285-pounder Jeffrey Keyton.
The education continued Friday and Saturday when the Buffaloes team that included only five veteran wrestlers when it started joined the field at the annual Big Blue tournament in Christiansburg. With Keyton back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the season to date, Floyd County filled 10 of 14 classes.
If it sounds like all this came together quickly, it did. Mike Murphy had been the coach and had put the program on sound footing. But he took another job in Northern Virginia. The season was fast approaching before Hawkins was hired.
Hawkins, who had been a wrestler and a football player in his high school days, played football and graduated from Ferrum. After that, he worked mostly in management for car rental company Enterprise in Lake Tahoe, Nev. He chose that area because of a love of outdoor winter sports, particularly snowboarding. He’s back in this area now with hopes of one day opening his own bike and outdoor gear shop. Meanwhile, he’s working construction and studying for a real estate license. To top it all off, he decided some coaching sounded interesting.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
That made him hesitate to take the wrestling job to begin with. But when it became apparent that the program might not continue unless a coach was found and he was the only candidate, then that made up his mind.
The team that attended the Big Blue includes one senior, 182-pounder Henry Vangunten, and the rest freshmen and sophomores. Vangunten shared some of the anxiety about finding a new coach to replace Murphy last fall.
“I was pretty nervous because I had always had the same head coach ever since I started — he coached me in youth league, too,” Vangunten said. “I wasn’t too happy to see him go.”
It took a bit of time for the new coach to settle in.
“It was a little bit awkward at first,” Vangunten said. “It’s going all right now that everybody’s gotten to know each other. There are a lot of new wrestlers, new coach, but now it’s gotten better.”
It had been a while since Hawkins took to a wrestling mat. He brushed up with some reading and various videos.
“YouTube is a wonderful thing,” he said.
Everybody has been learning together, the coach included. That match with Franklin County and Christiansburg had the potential to be intimidating for a young team. Notably, nobody freaked out.
“The young guys were excited to get going,” Keyton said.
Maybe some of the newcomers had never heard of the mighty Blue Demons and Eagles.
“It was quite a learning curve,” Vangunten said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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