Jenkins is back on the wrestling mat

Greg Jenkins had already proven himself on the mat. He won a state championship for Manassas Park in 1978 — the first in the school history — and helped kick off a long, successful era for the program.

“That team in ’78-79, they were very good, tough kids,” said Richard Hilleary, then the Manassas Park coach. “Greg set the standard for all the kids at Manassas Park at that time.”

After he finished wrestling, Jenkins wrestled in an open tournament and was dissatisfied with the officiating in that tournament.

“I thought I could do better [than that official],” he said.

Sixteen years later, it seems he has.

Jenkins is regarded as one of the top wrestling officials in the area. He officiated in last year’s Group AAA championships in Chesapeake. And he’ll try to officiate at next year’s Beast of the East, a regular stop for some of the east coast’s top wrestling programs and rated as the toughest event in the country.

By their nature, wrestlers — and wrestling officials — have a difficult job. It’s one-on-one, and there are no teammates to rely on. From the official’s point-of-view, there’s no one area to concentrate on; since there’s just one official, that official must see it all.

Quick reflexes help, but anticipation makes it that much easier. Having been in the position of many of those wrestlers, Jenkins understands what’s happening and, perhaps more importantly, what’s about to happen.

Another important factor for wrestling officials — and officials of all sports — is to have a thick skin. Jenkins found that out the hard way early in his career, in a match between Park View and Warren County.

“The kid from Warren County was a big-time underdog, and there was this guy in the stands that was just going off,” Jenkins said. “I turned to look just to see who it was, and the kid from Park View was on his back. But I was able to get down in time.

“After that, I thought, nobody’s going to draw my eyes from the match. Because they were on their feet, then they were on their backs.”

Even then, there are some instances that can’t be ignored.

“I was at Stonewall, and a lady from Christiansburg called the Stonewall kid a fish. That was like sharp knife in my back,” Jenkins recalled. “I went right up in the stands after her, and the kids were like, ‘What’s going on?’

“[Stonewall activities director Ira DeGrood] said, ‘If you want her to go, tell me.’ I said no, we came to an agreement. Don’t belittle the kid, he’s got it tough enough.”

After the match, the woman apologized to Jenkins. She said she got wrapped up in the match, since it involved her son. Jenkins reminded her that she was wrestling someone else’s son, too.

That hits near the heart of Jenkins’ philosophy on the mat: Wrestle cleanly and safely. That’s a philosophy he takes to whatever mat he’s on, whether it’s at the AAA championships or in a middle school match.

While fewer and fewer officials will take the time for the middle school programs, Jenkins does his part to keep the sport going. He said he’ll officiate as many matches as needed for the middle schools, who have a tighter budget.

“I really enjoy it,” Jenkins said. “You get paid for 16 bouts in middle school … and if there are 10 extra kids, I’ll do them for free. I did a match with Stonewall [Middle School] and Marsteller, and there were 44 bouts. When I was leaving, the coach said, ‘Let me just give you some money out of my pocket.’

“Those kids would never have gotten to wrestle if I hadn’t officiated them. I know what it’s like — they’re not going to go to practice every day and get pounded by the A-teamers. They’re going to quit.”

Jenkins officiated important area matches seemingly from the beginning. One of the earliest was a matchup between Stonewall and Woodbridge. Current Forest Park coach Richard Hilleary was coaching the Vikings and Bill Cameron, now Brentsville’s activities director, was building a strong program with the Raiders. Making it even more difficult was the fact that Jenkins had wrestled for Hilleary at Manassas Park.

But Jenkins got through the match just fine, and that helped him build a good reputation. Now, Jenkins has connections with most of the area coaches. He officiated Osbourn Park coach Mike Wilbourn during Wilbourn’s career at Stonewall.

“Greg’s extremely knowledgeable, as far as understanding the flow and being in position to make the calls,” said Hylton head coach P.J. Pcsolinski. “He’s not an ego-maniac. And if I ever have a question about a call, he’ll always explain how he saw it. There’s never any type of tension.

“Last year was a great example, when [Ben] Harrison wrestled [North Stafford’s Kyle] MacLaird. It was 13-12 Harrison, there’s no time left on the clock and Harrison got hit for stalling. I asked him about it, and he said, matter-of-factly, ‘I hit him for stalling.’ With him, I usually just accept it, way more than I would with others. I wish all officials had his mindset and his disposition.”

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