And following a win at last season’s regional championship, Renner was recently named the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Girls Wrestling Coach of the Year.
On Monday, the 2018 National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee corresponded with the Press to tell us more about himself, his thoughts on the recent honor and what draws him to wrestling.
Dogs or cats: “Definitely dogs. We have two boxers, Callie and Chandler.”
Favorite food: Italian food
Favorite musicians: Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Hobbies: Hiking, camping, paddling and Atlanta Braves baseball. Also a “movie buff.”
Favorite vacation spot: “The mountains or a baseball game. My wife and I have been to 10 MLB stadiums so far.”
Tell our readers about how you got into wrestling. What led to your work with the district?
My wrestling career actually began on the freshman football field during two-a-days over the summer at Greeneville High School. One of the upperclassmen, Randy Wood, volunteered to help the coaching staff but used most of his time to recruit me and my teammates to wrestle. It was a highly effective strategy. After high school, I went to Carson-Newman College (now University) to wrestle. While there, I met this graduate assistant coach named Jeff Price. Coach Price went on to coach at Jefferson County High School. In 1997, he asked me to be his Assistant Coach. When he moved to Science Hill, he started working on me to join his staff. In 2006, I finally took him up on the offer. In 2007, I was hired on at the Science Hill Alternative Center, now Topper Academy.
What were your thoughts on the recent honor and how did it feel to be recognized?
I was really surprised. It is quite an honor to be nominated by my peers and recognized by the TSSAA. I am also proud of our athletes and the program that we have built. I consider myself fortunate to be able to represent Science Hill, and I am very thankful for the support that we receive from our Athletic Department, administration, alumni and community.
What do you think wrestling can teach participants?
Like most sports, wrestling teaches many life skills such as sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, work ethic and leadership. Where I believe wrestling stands out above the rest is that wrestling, by nature, increases self-control, increases self-esteem and teaches participants to deal with adversity. In wrestling, we begin each match with a handshake and end with a handshake. It is very difficult to deal with a tough loss and have to look your opponent in the eye and shake his or her hand.
Who do you think is the most inspirational figure in wrestling and why?
There are many intriguing and inspirational stories and figures throughout wrestling both past and present. Some wrestlers of note would include Dan Gable, John Smith, Cael Sanderson, Anthony Robles and Kyle Maynard. Two of the most notable female wrestlers would be Tricia Saunders and Helen Maroulis. Tricia Saunders is considered to be a "true pioneer of Women's Freestyle Wrestling.” She was a four-time world champion and never lost to an American opponent. The High School Excellence Award is aptly named in her honor. Helen Maroulis won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in 2016 by defeating Japan's Saori Yoshida, the most accomplished female wrestler in history. These women have opened the door of endless possibilities for young female athletes that might choose to wrestle.
What advice would you have for anyone thinking about trying wrestling?
Be open-minded and give it a try. Every year when I am trying to recruit new girls I hear ‘But I don't know how to wrestle!’ Experience, although helpful, is not required. That is my job as a coach. I just need girls willing to take the chance. Upon reflecting, most of the girls that come to our program that did not come out as Freshmen really regret it, because they enjoy it so much. To curtail this issue, we have a youth club, Hilltopper Wrestling Club, for all students of Johnson City Schools, boys and girls. So just jump in and give it a try.