(Columnist's Note: This guest columnist is Allen "Chip" Jones. He asked for the opportunity to thank his former wrestling coach at Wheeling Central Catholic High School. There is no greater reward that a teacher or coach could ask for than the love and deep respect of his former students or athletes. After reading this tribute to a coach, you might want to sit down and write a note to a teacher or coach who inspired and changed your life in a positive way.)
. . . for the Love of a Coach
by Allen "Chip" Jones
Today, as I watch my young nephews participate in small fry wrestling, I find it heartening to see that there is a concerted effort abound in order that those young fellas, who are currently attending Catholic schools and wrestling, and who further plan to "do both," will be able to do so without interruption. The efforts of Sean Doyle, T.C. Chappelear, and Brian Davis are to be lauded. But long before these benefactors endeavored thusly, there was William Stanley Johnson.
And I know this firsthand. For it was in the Spring of 1983, when I, a promising sixth grade grappler, was faced with the imbroglio of how to continue with my wrestling without "skipping the beat" that would be my seventh and eighth grade years at a Catholic school sans a junior high program. My dad and I realized that wrestling, though conducive to building and augmenting character, was only analogous to life and faith, so we were decidedly in favor of the hiatus from wrestling rather than the transferring to another school. It was then that the hand of Providence (vicariously through Stan Johnson) provided a resolution.
Prior to his approaching my dad at a late year tournament, I could only associate Stan as the "skinny guy who broke up a fight between a much older boy and me" several years earlier. This young man was in fact one of Stan's "Warwood boys" and probably would have made short bloody work of me had it not been for the prior intervention (Old Testament prefigurement comes to mind). Since my only experiences with Stan since the fight and up until that Spring tourney had been incidental meetings at small fry events, I did not know that he also was the head wrestling coach at Wheeling Central.
Wanting to improve or at least maintain a program which was short on numbers but high on talent while giving parochial schoolers a chance to continue wrestling without the interruption that was seventh and eighth grade "intermission," Stan made my dad, me, and any other private school student the offer to practice with Central until high school.
And so it would be. Though I was the only one who would take him up on his offer, he would still provide me a singlet and coaching for tournaments where I would be the only participant for whom he would have an interest.
My high school years with Stan were memorable to say the least. Stan, poor fellow, as a coach, was more along the line of a humanitarian than authoritarian, and so malefactors such as my buddies and I were more than eager to push the envelope that was his limitless patience. But though he lacked the stern hand in the way of discipline, he would distribute "punishment" in the live wrestling sessions where it was soon learned that the "functioning Stan" existed in great disparity to the "ostensible Stan."
His uncanny balance, disproportionate strength, and superb technique evinced a being "light-years" beyond (in wrestling prowess) the slender, retiring fellow who lived off the mat. And his practice attire---I do not know if he was trying to hint that we should dress properly on the practice mat or not---but it was not uncommon for him to go at it with sweater, corduroys, and one blue and one green sock (he assured us he had pairs just like them at home).
But more than his abilities was his care for the athletes. The program at the time was not well funded and so it was usually he, from his own pocket, who purchased medical supplies and water bottles. Transportation was also covered by him. After late night shifts, he would spend his entire Saturday at twelve hour tournaments. One week, God help him, he even let my friend Brian and me live at his house!! Ted Fujita proclaimed the damage f-5.
Stan Johnson coached John Witzberger and Fritz Braunlich each to two state titles. He coached my uncle, Jeff Wensyel, and me to one, and he also coached several OVAC placewinners, including Braunlich who won two OVAC Championships.
Stan is married to Cindy and resides in West Liberty. He is stepfather to her sons Bud and Joe. Stan, I write this in order that I might repay a debt owed. Well, maybe this and about three million dollars would suffice. Thank you, Coach Stan!