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In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Coaching Legends Series-Doug Gerringer

 

The story of Doug Gerringer is another nostalgic trip down memory lane.  I have so many vivid memories of Coach Gerringer from the interaction he and I had via the sport of wrestling during my high school and college years.  Coach Gerringer was never my coach, but he was a coach within WSFCS and during wrestling season we saw each other quite a bit. 

Doug is from Guilford County having graduated from Northeast Guilford High School in 1967. While he attended Northeast Guilford, the school did not offer a wrestling team.  Doug had a profound interest in the sport and he even lobbied the school to create a program while he was a student there, but it never happened until after he graduated.  The year after he graduated the school formed a practice squad and soon after a full-fledged wrestling program was created.

After graduating from NEG Doug headed down the road a small bit to UNC-Greensboro.  While he had been accepted into UNC-Chapel Hill Doug decided to remain close to home, so he could pay his own way through school raising tobacco during the summers.  After graduating in 1972 he had to attend another semester to finish his teaching certification and complete his student teaching internship.

After finishing up at UNCG, Doug didn’t go directly into full-time teaching.  Instead, he decided to venture into the workforce working a variety of jobs such as carpentry.  He did do some substitute teaching during the 1972-76 years range before making the decision to get serious about a career in teaching.

Doug began full-time teaching in 1976 at Hill High School, which at the time was a 9-10 grades only high school. He was hired to teach Biology.  He taught next door to Jerry Messick (The 29th REAL MAN of the Week) who encouraged him to be his assistant wrestling coach. Doug agreed and that was the beginning of a more than 40-year friendship between the two.  Regarding Jerry, Doug stated Jerry is “a man who has been one of the most influential people in my life.”

So, Doug, a brand-new teacher, took the plunge to become an assistant wrestling coach despite having zero prior wrestling experience. That takes incredible courage, and what may have begun as an experiment just to help a colleague turned into a passion for the next 18 years. As far as learning the wrestling technique and the intricate aspects of coaching wrestling Doug said, “Jerry taught me what I needed to know from a coaching standpoint.”

The two worked in tandem to create one hell of a wrestling program.  The final four years they were together the team’s record was 10-4, 13-1, 13-1, and 14-0. They had numerous wrestlers who won the city/county championship that would go on to their senior high school and become state qualifiers and/or state placers the following season or two. 

With the huge transition WSFCS high schools undertook in the 1984-85 school year Doug was transferred from Hill to North Forsyth HS where he would teach science and take over the reins of the wrestling program as head coach. He would serve as the head coach for 10 years working alongside one of the All-Time North Forsyth coaching greats, Gene Bowles (a man who would serve NF as head football coach, head wrestling coach, and head baseball coach). Regarding Coach Bowles, Doug stated, “Gene helped tremendously by running a wrestling unit in his PE class and then steering interested kids into our wrestling Program.”

When Doug took over the North program the wrestling team consisted of 6 to 8 wrestlers and they would lose dual meets by massive margins due to forfeiting so many weights.  The team would consider it a moral victory if they won half the individual matches that were wrestled between the two teams.

 

On building the team’s participant numbers Doug shared, “Jerry and I discovered at Hill that to have a successful wrestling program, a so-called minor sport, we had to recruit successfully in our own building. What many wrestling coaches did was get so hyped about how tough the sport was that they would make the first few practices so difficult that they ran some kids off. We concluded that our kids didn’t need to be in end of year tournament condition when the season started, they just needed to be in better shape than their opponents. So, we made practice fun, showed exciting wrestling moves to begin with, and slowly worked them into shape. Using this philosophy my program soon had 40 or more wrestlers on the team and we had more participants than any team in the school, including football.” 

I personally witnessed the ascension of the NF wrestling program and saw their team turnaround in real time.  They developed some heavy hitters on the wrestling mat.  The team won conference championships a few times, was Midwest Regional Runners-up in 1990, and had numerous individual conference champions, regional champions, and state placers or qualifiers.  Doug had the honor of being voted conference coach of the year a couple times. 

Beginning in 1990, Doug started attending Gardner-Webb University to obtain his Master’s in School Administration. He would complete the program in 1992.  According to Doug, “In 1994, I regretfully ended my coaching career and took an Assistant Principal’s job at Parkland.” Doug worked at Parkland for 6 years and would move to Glenn High School in 2000.  He’d work at Glenn for 5 years leaving for Atkins to become the Principal of the School of Pre-Engineering.  He would work at Atkins until 2011, which is the year Mr. Gerringer retired from education.  At the time of his retirement he was 62 years of age and had logged in 35 years of service to the students of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. 

Doug has been married to Beth for 23 years.  Beth is a retired teacher as well having retired in 2011 along her beloved. Doug has a son, Max (38), a daughter, Elley (33), and a stepson, Chris (40). Max works in the insurance industry and does some acting in commercials.  Elley owns her own chocolate making company and she is an engineering consultant for a company called Essentra. Chris is Vice President over Physicians services at Beaufort Memorial Hospital in South Carolina.

Doug and Beth are happily retired and enjoy staying in shape by walking two or more miles a day and working out in the gym twice a week (I’ve seen them both in the gym and out walking simply tough and that’s all there is to it).  Doug is an amateur beekeeper with two hives, and he has a pet Labrador Retriever named Henry. Henry loves to compete in dock diving competitions where dogs get a running start and leap off a platform to retrieve a toy thrown into a pool. The winner is determined by the distance they jump. The participants are flighted by their average distance in preliminary jumps, and they can then win their flight in the finals.  Doug says it is “tremendous fun.” Henry competes at the pool at the Brylin Obedience Specialty School in King.

Beth and Doug built a cabin in the mountains near the town of Todd and spend about half of their time there enjoying the weather, hiking, and having fun together with friends. Doug is an NC State fan, follows the Panthers, and is a Boston Red Sox fan. He plays tuba in his church band at new Philadelphia Moravian.  He grew up hunting and fishing and loves hiking, surf fishing, golfing, and being out in nature.

Writing this story about Doug has been a true inspiration to me.  Back when I was in my 40s, I used to always say that I was going to coach until I’m 50 then I was going to quit to do something else.  I’m 55 now, and still have the raging fire and passion to be in the arena or at practice working diligently to build another state championship caliber team or wrestler. Doug using the word “regretfully” in explaining his decision to end his coaching career to become an Assistant Principal is not something I didn’t take heed to nor is the fact that when he retired from education he was 62 years of age.  I’ve decided to work until I’m 62 (health and wellbeing permitting), and coach wrestling the entire time.  Doug’s usage of “regrettably” and “62 years old” will serve as inspiration for me to remain focused on accomplishing my personal and professional goals.  For that I offer Doug a heartfelt “thank you” for inspiring me to do what he did in having the courage, commitment, and honor to serve the young people he served for as long as he did.

I reached out to some people to get comments from them about Doug and here are their responses:

Ernie Shouse (Former North Forsyth wrestler)

“I wrestled for Doug Gerringer in the late 80s. I remember him coaching with intelligence and lots of patience. He never really seemed to get rattled and he was good to his athletes. It was a very positive and memorable experience.”

Shawn Tucker (Former North Forsyth wrestler)

“Coach Gerringer was my Biology teacher in 1987 and talked me into coming out for the wrestling team. It was the best decision I could’ve made. Wrestling was life for our team for 4 years. Our team grew to become a family. Coach taught us how to be tough, but he taught us life lessons like how to overcome adversity and how to work your butt off to get better. For that I will be forever grateful to Coach.”

Joe Mickle (Former North Forsyth wrestler)

Coach Garringer to me in high school as a wrestling Coach meant the world to me and I owe a lot to him regarding my first wrestling experience.  He was the type of coach that always had your back, he was always even keeled. He didn't raise his voice a whole lot and wasn’t a get in your face type of coach. He just taught you the basics and to master the moves that help his athletes become successful. Do not get it wrong Coach G would put you to the test, he just had a way to do it in a calm manner. He just had a way to motivate and get you understand certain things that applied to wrestling and how those qualities translate to life. I grew up in some neighborhoods where it was pretty tough (Northside of WS), and as a kid I was always fighting and getting in trouble.  So, Coach introducing me to wrestling was the perfect fit. He taught me how to be motivated, goal oriented, and to use my aggression in a positive way. He taught me to work hard, be dedicated, and accountable to get what you want in the sport and in life through the effort you put in. I carry those lessons with me still today. As good as Coach G was as a coach, teacher and administrator he's an even better man. One of my favorite dudes of all time.

Jerry Messick (Former colleague and longtime friend)

“Doug and I coached Hill High School wrestling from the Mid 70's until the school system changed its format in 1984.  Doug was new to the sport but learned technique quickly.  I believe that coaching is made up of two main parts.  Technique and the ability to work with Kids.  Doug is a Master of Working with kids.  He was able to recruit and work with kids better than anyone I knew.  He may be the smartest man I've ever known.  He is definitely my "Phone A Friend," guy.  Together we had a ball working with the Southside Kids.  When the system changed to the 4-year high school system Doug took the head coaching job at North Forsyth and built a program that anyone would be proud to have.  He later became a very successful Assistant Principal and Principal for the WSFC Schools. I can't think of anyone more honorable than my friend Doug Gerringer”

Keith Shields (Former Hill wrestler, Parkland Head Wrestling Coach)

“Doug Gerringer gets the credit (or maybe the blame to some folks, LOL) for getting me into wrestling. I was a skinny kid in 9th grade trying out for basketball in 1980 when he walked up to me in the cafeteria while we were dumping our trays at Hill High. He said "I hear you are a pretty scrappy guy. When you get cut from basketball, just keep your shorts on and come on down to the auditorium and join us on the wrestling mat." So, I got cut that afternoon and the rest is history. I did have a few friends wrestling. And I never asked, but Dick Jamback (the basketball coach) was a mentor of mine and those two probably talked and thought that it would be good to keep me involved in athletics. Doug would continue to be a mentor to me throughout my coaching career as an Administrator at Parkland while I was there. And later as a principal at Atkins HS which I served for the EC Department as one of my schools. Doug was a great coach in his own right, developing several successful teams and wrestlers at North Forsyth after he and Jerry Messick left Hill due to the consolidation. He was always someone I respected and thought a lot of his opinion regarding coaching and kids. Along with many others, I was lucky enough to have had both of these gentleman in my life at a critical time.”

Doug left an incredible legacy behind at North Forsyth HS and within the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.  The testimony given above demonstrates just how effective and influential he was during his coaching career.  Thanks Doug! 

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