Prep wrestling coach honored

NOKESVILLE — Friday night’s reception for Brentsville wrestling coach Thad Kiesnowski filled most of the seats on the Tigers’ home side.

But it was more than just the packed home stands that reminded everyone of what Kiesnowski has meant to Brentsville.

Looking down from the gym’s far corner were the Tigers’ seven Class A state championships. That theme, seven championships, was oft-repeated, from Kiesnowski’s sweatshirt to the wrestlers’ duffel bags that lined the floor in front of the first row of bleachers.

Friday night was Kiesnowski’s last dual meet in Nokesville. Next month’s Bull Run District tournament will be held there, but Friday night was the beginning of the end of an era.

But that wasn’t exactly how Kiesnowski put it.

“I don’t think me leaving educating and coaching is an end. It’s a continuation,” he explained. “They’re going to replace me as a coach. The kids who are coming back aren’t going to quit because I’m not here.”

After the conclusion of a disappointing 41-22 loss to local rival Stonewall Jackson during which each wrestler wore a singlet from a different point in Brentsville’s wrestling history Kiesnowski was treated to a roast of sorts.

They teased the Tiger coach for his vocal style: Some called it bellowing. “He always said he didn’t yell, he projected,” said one speaker.

Kiesnowski laughed as various speakers, some who wrestled at Brentsville 10 years ago, some 30 years ago, poked fun at him and recounted humorous old stories.

As many barbs as there were, kind words were in far greater supply.

“I never became a champ, but I felt like I was coached by a champ,” Greg Griffin, a former Tiger wrestler told the crowd.

“He’s one of the true workers. If he’s going to dig a ditch, he’ll dig that ditch as well as he can,” said former Brentsville football coach Mike Madison, who retired after the fall season.

Even those that didn’t speak were of a similar mind set.

“He’s done a phenomenal job. Longevity is not something you see,” said Stonewall Jackson head coach Kevin Turner. “Many coaches are not able to change with the times. Society and culture has changed two or three times since he’s been here. But he still gets in the psyche, and he earns the inspiration and admiration of teenage boys.”

It hasn’t been a bad ride for someone who never wrestled and never planned on staying at Brentsville for more than five years.

Instead, the accomplishment list includes the most wins ever by a Virginia wrestling coach, seven state championships and a likely induction into the VHSL Hall of Fame. The program, clearly, won’t be quite the same next year.

This won’t be the end of Brentsville wrestling, but it’s surely the end of an incredible era.

Brian Hunsicker covers wrestling for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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