Wrestling was a big hit in Hancock County beginning in the early 1970’s when John Brennan started the first Hornet program. Names like Danny and Donny Zeir, the Gooch brothers, Ken Grantland and David Emmick are just some of the great athletes that people around here have not forgotten.
Wrestling programs across the state were dropped sometime in the 1980’s due to various reasons such as budget cuts and Title IX compliance. Even the wrestling programs at the Owensboro schools were scrapped for a while, but they’ve made a comeback over the last decade or so. Not so for county schools.
All that may change in the near future as wrestling is making a comeback. Kenny Stone has brought wrestling back with his Hornet Wrestling Club. “It’s going great!” Stone said during a recent wrestling camp event he held at Mt. Eden Baptist Church in Hawesville.
“It all started at North Hancock Elementary as an after school program and we want to expand it to all the kids in the county, including middle and high school as a club. We’re hoping, since we have a lot of parental support, that the schools will pick it up.” Stone had 16 kids at his camp and he says it’s really growing. We had 30 kids at NHES and he wants to start club wrestling on a weekly basis going forward.
Stone lives in Hancock County now and is pastor at Mt. Eden. His athletic background began with football and when his family moved to Owensboro in 2001 his son became interested in wrestling… but there was no program in the area. Stone approached the principal at Apollo and eventually began the new wrestling program there. He later did the same at Owensboro High School and has now been a wrestling coach for 24 years.
Stone plans on taking a proposal to the local board of education in hopes of returning wrestling at the school level. And he says girls are now allowed to wrestle. “Girls have their own sanctioned KHSAA state championship. Girls wrestling is booming in Kentucky. Ft. Campbell has 40 girls on their team and it’s very popular in Meade County,” Stone said.
“We’re hoping the board will approve it as a sport. We have the parental support and we have coaches in place. We’re ready to get this off the ground.”
Noah Kirkman and Jake Ramsey have been helping Stone coach the young wrestlers and Stone says that Kirkman would be a great pick for the head coach at HCHS if the sport is accepted by the board.
“I’m 67 now and a man’s got to know his limitations”, Stone said quoting Clint Eastwood. Stone is excited about the progress he’s made in the county and he talked about some of the benefits of wrestling. “Wrestling builds character and self reliance. You learn about nutrition and it just makes you healthier. It helps channel aggression in a good way and wrestlers are some of the best conditioned athletes in the world.
Wrestling is also not even in the top 10 of high school sports for number of injuries. Believe it or not, cheerleading is #1.”
Sportsmanship is another important part of wrestling as it’s the only sport that requires a handshake before and after a match.
“I just love the sport of wrestling and I love what it does for kids,” Stone said. Anyone who is interested in joining the Hornet Wrestling Club can contact Kenny at email@example.com or call him at 270-993-0122.
By Steve Wimmer