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In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Bill Wheeler Retires from Officiating


Since the end of the 2022-23 wrestling season there have been quite a few retirements that will dramatically change the makeup of the coaching realm across North Carolina, but coaches aren’t the only people retiring from the sport we all love.  There are some officials hanging up their whistles too.  Bill Wheeler is one of them. 


Bill’s involvement with wrestling goes back to the late 1960s when he began wrestling at Tuscola High School where he’d graduate in 1971.  During his senior season, Bill placed 3rd in the state tournament. 


During the 1972-73 wrestling season, Bill decided to get into officiating.   He would become one of the top wrestling officials in North Carolina and would be revered and admired by many coaches as a result.  


As an official, Bill served for 50 years, including 4 years as a college official (I remember him officiating some of the matches I wrestled in college).  Throughout his career, he would officiate 31 NCHSAA State Individual Tournament Championships and 10 NCHSAA State Dual Championship Final Matches.  He was also inducted into the North Carolina Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2022.  


The only sport other than wrestling Bill officiated was slow-pitch softball. 


Bill is married and has 2 children (Christopher Brooks, deceased stepson, and daughter, Vandi Powell, 42).  He has 7 grandchildren Brittany Brooks (26), Tresean Wheeler (23), Damon Brooks (22), Jelani Powell (20), Andre Powell (18), Logan Brooks (17), and Clarence Powell (15), and 1 great grandchild, Alina Powell (1).  


Bill didn’t just retire from officiating.  He also retired from Duke Energy after working there 44 years.  


In retirement, Bill will travel, play golf, and go fishing while also planning to continue working some by using his CDL License to drive a tour bus.  


Here are some quotes from other officials and coaches regarding Bill’s retirement:


Tony Madren, Piedmont Wrestling Officials Association, Booker


“Bill perfected his craft with kindness and respect for coaches and fans; always seeking to do the right thing for the wrestler.”


Gary Ollis, Official, PWOA


“Bill was a hardworking and dedicated official always fun to work with!”


David Oliver, Head Wrestling Coach, Starmount High School


“I've known Bill Wheeler as long as I can remember and when we see each other we're always picking around.  One of the best referees in the state of NC.  He would always listen to your argument, but I don't remember getting many calls reversed!  He stuck to what he saw and loved all the athletes and had a great relationship with coaches.  He will be missed!”


Michael Jordan, NC Wrestling Hall of Fame, former assistant coach at Duke and several high schools 


“Bill was always a good whistle who was always fair and treated everyone with respect” 


Stephen Priddy, Head Wrestling Coach, Surry Central High School


“For the last 20+ years I have had the privilege of getting to know Bill Wheeler. Bill has become more than just an area official but a friend and someone I have the upmost respect for.  Bill was able to put you in your place while on the mat and then sit down and joke with you when it was all over. This season will be a little different not seeing him on the mat. The wrestling community is losing one of the best!  Coach, I enjoy reading your write ups and following you on FB. You are someone that is not given the credit they deserve for all you have done for the sport as well as all the young men you have helped along the way!  Keep up all the hard work!”


Brandon Dillard, Head Wrestling Coach, Ashe County High School


“We have had the honor of knowing Mr. Wheeler since the early 90’s when he called our personal matches. He is located close to us and has called many matches throughout the years as well as seeing him at the state tournament. He has always been a professional and our kids have always treated him like one. He is a gentleman and professional.  We had senior night last year and we honored him as well for his 50th year and our fans gave him a standing ovation. We have nothing but respect for the man and it has been an honor knowing him. I wish we could have him another 50 years. May the good Lord bless you in your retirement.”

Paul Crouse, PWOA Official, former Alleghany HS Head Coach


"I first met Bill Wheeler when I was a wrestler at Alleghany HS in the early 80’s. Back then my teammates and I were always glad to see Mr. Wheeler, as our coach made us refer to him, come into the gym. We thought he was cool, easy to talk to, and hustled on the mat trying to get the call right. Plus he was a dang good ref.


We  knew our coach, Jim Smith, had a lot of respect for him and that was instilled in our team.


A few years later, as a coach, I was always glad to see Bill on the assignment list. He officiated many of Alleghany’s biggest matches over the years and I was glad he was there every time, even if I disagreed with a call, (which was rare) or we didn’t win. I’m pretty sure the guys on our teams back then would echo that sentiment.


As a fellow NCHSAA wrestling official that has worked in the same association (PWOA) with Bill for the last 20 years, I can tell you he sets the example our officials try to follow when it comes to professionalism. Bill still is a student of the sport, leads discussions in our meetings, and when someone else leads the discussion, asks questions about situations trying to help him and us as a group improve.


Bill is known as very approachable and will listen to a coach if called to the table, consider the coach's plea, make a quick and fair judgement, and get back to the action.


What may be the most impressive thing about Bill, however, is his reputation and relationship with the fans. Diehard wrestling fans around northwest NC are always glad to see Bill officiate a match. Many of them are back in a gym watching their grandkids wrestle and watched Bill call their son’s matches decades ago. Bill is still a fan favorite.


Bill Wheeler has been an asset to Northwest NC wrestling and high school athletics in general. He represents what is good about being an official.  We’re going to miss him at every level."


In closing, Bill Wheeler was a truly great official and we will all miss his expertise on the mat.  The realization of him retiring hit me hard when I reached out to him for permission to do this article.  Initially, I sent him a text message and asked him to contact me.  When I

he called me and I explained why I needed to speak to him, he responded “I thought you were contacting me to officiate a tournament and I was calling to tell you no way man.”  I couldn’t help but laugh about it, but then I got sad, because it hit me that one of the great ones won’t be on the mat anymore.  


Congratulations Bill Wheeler for an outstanding career in officiating.  All coaches, past and present, thank you for your service and contribution to our great sport. 

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