By BRIAN HUNSICKER
The paths along Kevin Turner’s life diverged. In a sense, he could see it coming.
There’s the family path, with wife Jacqueline and two – soon to be three – young children. Then there’s the career path, which could lead to a job in school administration.
Lastly, there’s the coaching path. With the former two requiring increased attention, Turner realized he wouldn’t be able to devote the time he’d like to the latter. As a result, this will be his final season as Stonewall Jackson’s wrestling coach.
”I envy the coaches that have been around for 20, 30 years,” Turner explained. ”But I know that my family and career plans won’t allow that.”
Since Turner joined the Raiders’ coaching staff, his family has doubled in size. He came to Stonewall in time for the 1998 season, and not long after, daughter Jasmine, now 5, came along too.
Now, there’s 2?-year old Kevin Jr. And due in May is the couple’s third child.
With Jasmine – and before long, her brother – getting to be school age, there will soon be other activities to pursue. Time for those other activities would be short if all the demands of a head wrestling coach remained: There’s the obvious in-season practices and tournaments, but there’s also offseason training and open gyms.
Not that it hasn’t happened already – almost. On the first night of the Raider Invitational, Jasmine was performing a recital at Woodbine Christian School. Turner was set to miss the meet for the chance to see his daughter perform.
As luck would have it, the tournament was canceled because of snow.
”It’s difficult juggling everything … but with the Christmas play, I would not miss out on it,” Turner said.
By itself, Turner’s full-time job usually won’t require him to miss his childrens’ after school activities. His official title at Stonewall is teacher on administrative assistance, but it usually means he’s in charge of doling out discipline when necessary.
But if this is the track to a role within the administration, Turner will have to finish up on some homework of his own. He said he’ll need to take some classes to get into the administrative track, and that will further take away from the time he could devote to coaching.
Once that’s complete, Turner hopes he can remain at Stonewall or, if that’s not viable, at least stay in Prince William County.
There are only so many hours in which to accomplish so much. But wrestling has always been a big part of Turner’s life: In 10 months, when wrestling season begins again, it will be Turner’s first time off the mat since he was 12. At the same time, the more important priorities take precedence.
”The kids are older, the responsibilities with my career are more stressful, and that makes it more and more difficult,” Turner said. ”After a day of assigning discipline, practice and wrestling is like a stress release. But [time constraints are greater] on the administrative side that goes along with coaching.”
His decision made, Turner can at least know he helped keep the Raiders’ wrestling program near the top. He inherited a wildly successful program from then-coach Bill Cameron, and has largely continued that success.
In his first season, Turner led Stonewall to a championship in the old, eight-team Cardinal District. He followed that with a third-place finish at regionals and an 11th-place finish at states, and Ryan Bishop won the first state championship of the Turner era at Stonewall.
In 2001, the Raiders were third in the eight-team Cardinal District, seventh in the Northwest Region and saw Josh Walker win a state title. That, Turner said, was one of his personal highlights, since Walker starred on a team that finished with a 13-14 dual meet record.
”There have always been bright lights in an individual sport,” he said. ”There are bright lights, even when the team loses.”
A year later, Stonewall won the first-ever Cedar Run District title. A third-place finish at regionals and a seventh-place finish at states followed.
Last year was the best of Turner’s seasons at Stonewall, at least according to the finishes: Third at regionals and a tie for fifth at states. District tournaments were canceled because of inclement weather.
This season has gone fairly well too. Although the Raiders have been hindered by injuries and illnesses, they’ve posted an 8-8 mark in dual meets. One of those meets, a win over Osbourn Park earlier this month, was the 100th win of Turner’s career – which also included a stint at Chantilly before he came to Stonewall.
”That’s a milestone that a lot of coaches value,” he said. ”It’s been a pleasure. I enjoy coaching here, but it’s been a challenge, because there was a tradition established. And if you don’t keep that up, all eyes are on the guy running it.”
”We’ve gotten kids into college to wrestle at that level. I feel like I’ve given back – this is my 10th year. If every wrestler gave back 10 years back to the youth, the sport will be around for a long time.”
He said he plans on staying involved with wrestling as much as his time allows, and he figures he’ll be back coaching when, and if, Jasmine and Kevin Jr. want to try out sports.
He added that he’s gotten a lot of support during his tenure: from Stonewall’s administration to his parents and to the parents of his wrestlers. There’s also assistant coaches Seth Cameron and Tom Dillinger.
And, of course, there’s Jacqueline.
”She’s extremely supportive,” Turner said.
Now, as Turner wraps up this chapter of his coaching career, the Raiders can begin to look ahead to determine the future of the program. Activities director Ira DeGrood said the school will wait until after the season ends to begin its search for a new coach.
The new coach could come from outside the program, though Cameron has expressed interest in taking the job his father once held. DeGrood has just one condition: That the new coach must work in the building, making communication easier. Cameron’s already got that, since he’s a special education teacher at Stonewall.
DeGrood said they’ll begin looking at their options the week after the Group AAA state tournament ends.
But for now, Turner’s still in charge. And he’s got a month left to see if this final season will turn out as successfully as the past ones have. From Cameron’s perspective, it seems as though the season will be a success for Turner, regardless of what happens.
”He’s a good guy, he’s always positive, no matter what the outcome,” Cameron said. ”He’s always positive. We’re kind of like the good cop, bad cop – I’m usually getting on the kids, and he’s the guy that comes over and calms me down. He’s always positive, he’s got a good outlook, and the kids respond to that.”