Hall of Famer Artie Manning Set to Retire at State Traditional

State Wrestling Notebook

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - by B.B. Branton

As the curtain rises on the 54th TSSAA state traditional wrestling tournament Thursday afternoon in Franklin, long time Clarksville High School wrestling administrator Artie Manning will enter the Williamson County Ag Center for the final time.

He was there when Clarksville High School had no singlets, no mats and no wrestlers, but did have a dream of building a championship wrestling program.

That was 46 years ago (1968-69) and this weekend at the state tourney in Franklin, Manning will retire his clip board and scorebook.

He has seen the state tournament grow from 24 teams battling for one championship in 1969 at  Brainerd High School to four traditional tournaments (including girls wrestling) under one roof in 2014 at the spacious Williamson County Ag Center as Chattanooga teams including Baylor and McCallie (D-II), Hixson (D-I A-AA)and Cleveland (D-I AAA) will fight for championships.

“Artie has been a major part of wrestling in Clarksville, specifically, but really across the state for close to 50 years - an amazing contribution,” said former TSSAA executive director Ronnie Carter. “He was a major part of the success of the State Dual Meet Tournament in Clarksville, but more than anything, he is just a great person who makes anything better when he is involved.”

Wildcat Wrestling Beginning: Clarksville football coach Johnny Miller wanted his football players to wrestle in the late 1960s, Ed Bunio was hired as the first head coach and Manning, a sophomore at nearby Austin Peay and one who had wrestled at Sewanee Military Academy, helped teach the sit outs, single leg takedowns and plenty of half nelsons.

First Freshman State Tournament: “Ed offered me $100 a month and expenses on the road to help the team which for a college student was a great deal,” said Manning who was one of two SMA wrestlers who competed in the state's first freshman wrestling tournament in 1963 at Red Bank Junior High School directed by John Farr and Manning placed second at 98 pounds to the Soddy Daisy champ.

Bunio and Manning helped the wrestlers become fast learners as the purple-clad Wildcats had two fourth place medalists in 1970 (Stewart Salyer at 140 and Marshal Stewart at 178) and had a wrestler fighting for a title – heavyweight runner-up Steve Kulback – in 1971.

A strong advocate for the sport, Manning has worked with nine head coaches, seen four different Clarksville wrestlers’ hand raised as state champions (Matt McCarty was a 3-timer) and was one of the driving forces in Clarksville hosting the TSSAA D-I state duals for the first 10 years of the new millennium.

“Artie is the backbone of Clarksville wrestling and over the years has created the structure and organization that has made a seemless transition from one coach to another,” said current head coach Tommy Badon.

“He was the driving force behind the hiring of Jeff Jordan in 1993 who led the Wildcats to a state duals and traditional championships in 2000.”

Hall of Famer: A fierce competitor and always loyal to the program and one of the true gentlemen of the sport, Manning’s contributions to the sport have been duly noted as the Clarksville wrestling building has his name on it and his name is also on a green jacket signifying membership into the Tennessee chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“We built the wrestling building on a loan with no collateral,” said Manning with a laugh who is a 1966 graduate of SMA where he wrestled and starred as an outfielder on the baseball team.

But true to his word, Manning and others paid off the building on time in five years and has since doubled the wrestling space.

“Artie has been the main booster for Clarksville wrestling for nearly 50 years and was such a great help to me while I was the head coach (1993-2012) in doing all the administrative work so necessary in helping us to be successful,” said coach Jordan, also a member of the Tenn. Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

From the aforementioned state team titles in 2000 to watching the development of two of the programs best champions in McCarty and defending heavyweight champ Bruno Reagan (who holds an age division world ranking in judo), Manning has a lifetime of treasured memories.

“It’s been a great 46 years to help Clarksville wrestling become a player on a statewide level, but it’s time to let others now run the show,” said Manning earlier this week.

The curtain comes down on the Artie Manning Era Saturday evening and hopefully one more state champion just for old time’s sake.

A half century of a class act. He will be missed.

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net

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