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
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
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
“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
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
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org