FAIRMOUNT – Taxes. Death. Oak Hill wrestling winning the Grant Four Championships.
These have been pretty much the norm since Andrew King began his coaching tenure at his alma mater in 1987.
A 1981 Oak Hill graduate, King made a clear impact during his 35-year coaching career on the many children he taught, coached and mentored in western Grant County.
But its impact has an even greater scope. Each of the three men he sat on the mat with at Monday’s Grant Four in Madison-Grant said they were part of the group who did not attend Oak Hill, but who have always been influenced by King.
“Growing up and fighting him in Mississinewa, seeing how competitive his teams were year after year, it made me strive to be better,” said MG coach Jamie Landis, graduate of Ole Miss in 2005. “I always knew my Oak Hill kid was going to be good.
“Sitting here, coach in front of him, it’s a different vision and a different perspective,” he continued. “I would have liked to fight for him, but I went to Mississinewa and that’s how it was. I learned a lot from him even when he coaches the other team. When he is there to train his children, I try to listen to how he trains his children, to see what he teaches and to try to make our children evolve in that direction, to try to improve my coaching.
King’s list of achievements as Oak Hill coach grew longer on Monday after Oak Hill dominated his path to a 13th consecutive Grant Four, the 33rd in his career.
Oak Hill is tied for 17th in Indiana history with 29 sectional championships. King has coached 22 of those titles. He led Oak Hill to his four regional championships, the first of which was held in the 2014-15 season.
Last season, King’s wrestlers won the first semi-state championship in the program’s history.
To put this accomplishment into perspective, in the 83 years of IHSAA-sanctioned wrestling, only 57 schools have won semi-state titles, and Oak Hill is one of the smallest to do so. Only 30 of these schools won more than one.
“I learned a lot from (King) as an athlete and a coach. I practiced with him a bit, ”said Eastbrook coach Cody Younce. “It’s great to compete with him and it’s great to see what he’s built.
“I have had family who took the Oak Hill program. Just being around the program and having a program like this in our riding is great for everyone, ”he continued. “We can all see their success and hopefully we can build and come back and have some success. Hopefully one of us in the county can end the streak or at least put some bumps in it. “
The only thing that seems to be missing from King’s coaching resume is a state champion wrestler or team. Oak Hill has sent several wrestlers to the state finals in recent seasons. Last year two Golden Eagles stepped onto the state podium, another first, with Aidan Hardcastle finishing seventh and Brody Arthur taking home the fifth best program medal.
Arthur is now a senior and ranked among the best wrestlers in the state at 145 pounds, and could potentially be the one to deliver that missing piece to King.
“There are a lot of expectations for Brody. I hope he won’t be too distracted, ”King said. “He just needs to fight each game one at a time. He really hasn’t been challenged this year by anyone at the state level yet. You can’t predict it, you can’t program it. He’s going to be challenged. At ECIC (Thursday in Jay County), he will have some very good games.
With Oak Hill’s three wins at Monday’s Grant Four, he’s now resulted in 495 double-meet wins.
Oak Hill athletic director Ryan Fagan said via text Tuesday that he believed only 10 wrestling coaches in the state’s long history had reached the 500-win plateau.
King looks certain to reach 500 wins before the end of the season, possibly even as early as Jan. 8, when Oak Hill competes in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association tag team matches in Martinsville. If that doesn’t happen, it could happen on the Eagles’ home mats on Jan. 14 and 15 when they try to win a ninth straight Indiana Central Conference championship.
While the victories far outnumbered the losses during King’s tenure, there were plenty of losses. One of Grant County’s current head coaches tasted victory on a big stage against Oak Hill.
“As a wrestler in the ’90s who faced him, it’s still the same kind of feeling,” said Mississinewa sophomore coach Pat Pearson. “Very deliberate in what he says, what he calls. Historical tradition. I know he is very involved in the youth program, which I try to draw inspiration from. I hope that one of these days I will have 38 years to devote to the program. Lots of things can happen.
“In ‘(19) 94 when I fought (for Mississinewa), we beat them in the section. It was our only sectional championship to date, ”he continued. “I beat that team there. I had to do it as a wrestler. I would really love to do it as a coach now and hang a few different numbers (on a banner). His program is really great. He’s also always a good face to talk to.