Wrestling Coach Wayne Branstetter Still Shaping Young Lives

About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains.

 Wayne Branstetter has been shaping the lives of young men for four decades as a high school wrestling coach. Over the past 35 seasons as head of the vaunted Poway High School wrestling program, the Titans have won 35 league championships, 32 CIF titles, four state championships, garnered five runner-up trophies at the state meet and won more than 400 dual meets.

Here, he shares his thoughts on the biggest challenge he now faces, the ways he is approaching that challenge, and what it will take to succeed:

I would have to say that the biggest challenge I face in my life right now is AGE! I just completed my 40th season as a head wrestling coach and as I approach my 63rd birthday, I ask the big question: Can I be as effective in the lives of these young high school boys to reach their goals?

This was never a question for the first 30 years of my coaching career, when I was in my 20s, 30s and 40s and I would personally “wrestle” the boys all those years. It was always my favorite way of coaching and getting my point across (not to mention my own personal satisfaction of still being able to whip a few studs — that would always bring you immediate “respect”).

But as time goes, so does the body, however, mentally you still think you have it. Well, after a few more injuries and operations, you finally have to let go and find another way. I’ve been able to do that for the last 10 to 15 years and we have had tremendous success and I have learned to ADAPT.

I’ve had to surround myself with outstanding young coaches who can do the hands-on and “demonstrate” what I want done, as well as adding their own expertise. I am fortunate to have a great assistant coach in John Meyers, who is an outstanding technician and human being, along with some past alumni who wrestled for me, like Justin Woodruff (1996), Danny Almanza (2003), etc.

I’ve had to learn to “let go.” I’ve watched several great organizations and seen how they have built their teams surrounded by great assistants, whether it’s an outstanding “defensive coordinator” or young “grad assistants” wrestling the boys everyday.

Soooo… I am continuing to find other ways to be effective. I do sometimes wonder how a young boy looks at me now when he sees this older man for the first time who is going to be his wrestling coach. But what he doesn’t know is that when I look at him I want to make him more than just a wrestler. I want to make him a better MAN through this great sport and that’s what drives me. I am sometimes accused of “talking too much,” but I have a lot to say in many other areas than just wrestling.

There is a lot going on in a young 14- to 18-year-old’s life, and I have a platform (wrestling) to influence him. Perhaps this is where my age helps me, because when you’ve lived long enough, you acquire some wisdom that you hope will steer a young boy in the right direction.

In the end, his athletic career is short-lived, but his life as a man is a long, long time, and if you can etch some values into his soul through this very tough sport of wrestling, then he wins, his family wins and society wins.

This is what drives me. But I do know that TIME will win (it always does). But in the meantime, I will continue to do my best.