Kevin Turner remembers the first time he met former Stonewall Jackson wrestling Coach Bill Cameron. It was in 1985, at the Virginia state championships, and Turner defeated one of Cameron's top wrestlers in the 155-pound final.
Turner did not realize it at the time, but that victory was his first step toward taking over the Stonewall Jackson wrestling program from Cameron, who retired last spring after a 19-year coaching career.
Turner's challenge is replacing a legend in a community he quickly learned closely follows Stonewall wrestling. But after three years as Cameron's assistant, preceded by three years of being head coach at Chantilly High School, Turner believes he is up to the task.
"There are some big shoes to fill," said Turner, who teaches art at Stonewall Jackson Middle School. "Any time you have a coach that has all those winning seasons in a row, there has to be something he is doing right. So coming in . . . I definitely didn't want to make too many changes as a head coach. If it's working, it's working."
Turner debuted as coach last night at the Raider Invitational, which concludes today at Stonewall with the semifinal and final rounds. One of the participating teams is Brentsville, which last week named Cameron its activities director.
Cameron first approached Turner about joining the Stonewall staff and possibly taking over when Cameron retired after a match against Turner's Chantilly team. It was an offer Turner found too tempting to turn down.
"Obviously I felt honored that he considered me," Turner said. "He had a ton of good coaches to choose from who have come through the Stonewall program. To be considered among those guys is an honor."
Turner has found the head coaching job a joy in the wrestling room and a challenge outside of it. Being Cameron's assistant has helped Turner mold a coaching style similar to his predecessor, a teaching method in which anyone, no matter the size, can learn the moves.
"On the mat it has been a blast," Turner said. "The kids are very receptive to my style, and we've covered a lot of ground in two weeks. . . . We like to teach moves that short guys, tall guys, fat guys and skinny guys can do."
Not everything has gone as smoothly off the mat. This weekend's tournament was the first Turner has organized, and he has been amazed by the amount of paperwork that comes with it.
"It's been a little bit overwhelming as far as off-the-mat responsibilities," Turner said. "We're living in a time of liabilities, so [a lot of] paperwork in any sport is a given."
But there's at least one off-the-mat aspect of coaching at Stonewall Turner minds pleasing: community involvement in the program.
"You can always use more community support, but I've never seen a group of parents more involved," Turner said. "Even kids' peers show up to the matches and root them on. . . . We have a pretty good following for wrestling.
PRESEASON TOP 5
1. North Stafford
3. Brooke Point
4. Colonial Forge
5. Stonewall Jackson