In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Damon Brown Retires
The Asheville area is known for having some quality wrestling. A few high schools there have fielded great teams over the years with Enka leading the charge, but TC Roberson has had their fair share of success on the mat as well.
The Wrestling Rams have been a consistent program over the past decade or longer. They have been a program that never shied away from seeking tough competition. That is a trait the program developed when Damon Brown became the coach in 2004. That trait continued throughout his 19 years as coach, which ended upon the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
Coach Brown's career chronology:
- Coach Brown began his coaching career as an assistant wrestling coach at Ashe Central High School in 1994 while he was completing his student teaching (he is a math teacher).
- From there, he would be hired by Hoke County where he’d work just one school year (1994-95). While at Hoke he served as an assistant coach in football and baseball.
- From 1995-99, Coach Brown worked at Surry Central HS where he was an assistant in football, wrestling, and baseball.
- In 1999, he was hired by Madison HS to be their head wrestling coach and the football team’s defensive coordinator. He’d serve there for 3 years.
- From 2001-04 Coach Brown worked at North Henderson HS where again he’d serve as an assistant coach in football, wrestling, and baseball from.
- Coach Brown is hired by TC Roberson in 2004
At TCR, Coach Brown would coach football for all of the 19 years he was with the school (the last 8 years being as Defensive Coordinator).
In wrestling, however, he was the head coach and here are the statistics to demonstrate a high performing and quality driven program:
- 354 career coaching dual meet wins (329 while at TCR)
- 2 state champions
- 10 state tournament placers
- 43 state tournament qualifiers
- 6 conference tournament championships
- Conference coach of the year in 2001 at Madison
- Conference coach of the year in 2012
- Western North Carolina Coach of the Year in 2012
- West Regional Tournament Champions in 2012
In the beginning, the TCR wrestling program had a long way to go. That 2004-05 season the program fielded 5 wrestlers. There had been no coaches on staff prior to Coach Brown's arrival. Eventually, the program began to flourish and at one point got up to 50 kids in the room. The COVID years took a toll on the numbers in the program, but the last couple years the numbers have been at a respectable 25 members.
During the 2021 COVID season the team fielded 12 wrestlers, but next season Coach Brown expects there should be about 30 kids wrestling for TCR.
Before retiring, Coach Brown commented “I tried to fill the cupboard back up for the next guy.”
I asked Coach Brown what the highlight of his career is, and he responded “The highlight of my career is a hard one to answer. I know this sounds cliché, but just watching these kids come into the program and see them grow up and become good young men. Good fathers and husbands. Them reaching out later and asking you to attend their wedding or be a part of their lives in some form or fashion. An actual highlight related to the sport would be at the 2012 West Regionals watching us compete and win the regional. We qualified 7 to the state tournament. That was a huge deal. Competing against some of the best coaches in the state and giving them good matches was something I always enjoyed. All in all, I believe I accomplished most everything I wanted. The only thing not accomplished was making to the state finals in football, and dual finals in wrestling, but Parker Haake wrestled for me at TCR and he has taken Bunn to the finals the last 2 years. I told him at least my “grand team” made it there.”
Coach Brown plans to move to Florida where he may seek to do some teaching and coaching. Being that he is a career math teacher he won’t have any problem finding a teaching job. He blames the decision to move to Florida hastily on his wife, Connor Louise Southern Brown. They have been married for 15 years. She had 3 sons from a previous marriage. The youngest played football and wrestled for TCR. He started some at Heavyweight his senior year.
The new coach for TCR is Justin Pike. On TCR hiring Pike, Coach Brown commented “I think he will do a great job. He is young and eager to go. He and I had become friends competing against each other the last couple of years. When I announced my retirement, he talked to me about coming over. I think it’s a great hire by TCR and I think they will be much improved over last year.”
Here are some comments on Coach Brown as requested:
Mike Koob, TC Roberson Assistant Wrestling Coach 2007-2023
“I believe too many coaches make it about themselves rather than the kids. Even when the kids were in in the wrong he always seemed to find a balance of not taking it personally and making it about the kids and the program!”
Matt Kamisol, 3 time state qualifier (placed 3rd as a senior in 4A at 145lbs in 2012)
“Where to begin. There is so much I could tell you about Coach Brown, we'd be talking all day if I could. Coach Brown, to me, was one of the biggest male role models in my life along with Coach Koob, and of course my own father. Coach Brown has been like a second dad to me and is a lifelong friend. He's taught me and so many other students and athletes many lifelong lessons and values that has carried on into our adult lives. Coach Brown taught us to be men. He taught us the value of hard work, discipline, and dedication to accomplish all our goals no matter what doubts or obstacles stood in our way. He made us believe that anything was possible as long as we worked hard and earned it. All that work in the wrestling room or outside of the room would pay off. And he was right. He instilled a mentality within me that I carry along. A mentality that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to because I know if I want it bad enough there is no one that is going to outwork me to accomplish the task at hand. Coach Brown has a contagious personality that everyone who knows him loves. He has a huge heart and a passion for teaching. I will always cherish the times that me and my other teammates shared with Coach Brown and Coach Koob. We had a great run at TC Roberson wrestling and all props go to those two men. Especially during my senior season 2011-2012, that was such a special time for our program that I often think back on and smile. Coach Brown and Coach Koob taught me everything I know about wrestling that sparked a passion in me for the greatest sport in the world! I hope to one day carry on what they have taught and instilled in me and carry on to the next generation to come after me and my own son. Coach Brown will always have a special place in my heart and so many others for being one of the most kind and influential people we've come across in this lifetime. I hope to mirror the passion and wisdom that Coach Brown has one day in my life. He is truly a wonderful man and a great coach!”
Coburn Burroughs, 3x state placer, class of 2014
"I wrestled 4 years for Coach Brown. He is one of the single most influential people I have ever encountered in my life. Coach Brown not only influenced my athletic career but also the trajectory of my professional life. Coach Brown was a passionate and a respected coach who clearly communicated his passion for the sport of wrestling and admiration that he had for his athletes. He commanded respect incidentally, and all that have ever had the pleasure of wrestling with or for Coach Brown are better for having that opportunity. He will be sorely missed in the NC wrestling community and I hope he enjoys retirement."
Coach, you had a great career, and you left the TCR wrestling program much better off from what you inherited. Congratulations on your retirement and we all wish you the absolute best. Job well done!