He may be stepping into the position of head coach for the first time, but Charles Elkins is no stranger to the sport of wrestling.
“I’ve been around high school wrestling practically my whole life,” he said. “I wrestled through elementary, junior high and high school in Ohio until we moved to Virginia my senior year.”
Elkins continued to coach wrestling throughout the years, including coaching youth wrestling at Gordon-Barbour Elementary School in Gordonsville. He and his family moved to Louisa County and Elkins joined the coaching staff as an assistant to middle school wrestling coach Jody Taylor.
His son Charlie began wrestling for Louisa’s middle school team and was pulled up to the high school’s JV team for the 2004-05 season. Elkins stepped back from coaching while his son was on the high school team, but remained involved with the program as a parent, helping with fundraising and running the concession stand at the team’s home matches.
Following Charlie’s graduation in 2009, Elkins continued to attend wrestling events and, in recent years, has been one of the drivers responsible for getting the team to and from their road competitions.
This year, he takes on the role of head coach for the first time, but he will be working with several coaches who have experience with Louisa’s wrestling program. Josh Sisk is going to stay on as the assistant varsity coach. Former head wrestling coach Dan Leale, who coached the younger Charlie, will be returning as the head JV coach and the assistant coach for the middle school team, assisting coach Ty Boyer.
Elkins has also recruited a group of volunteers that includes several former Louisa coaches and wrestlers, among them his son Charlie and two of his teammates: Randy Fisher and Kevin Whitmer.
Other volunteer coaches include former Louisa head coach Dan Bono, Mark Alberts, Michael Sharpe and Bailey Runnett.
“It brings back the integrity, our courage and our grit,” Elkins said. “I’m a firm believer in giving back to our community...and I wanted that to be part of this program. Our program is to produce successful student athletes in the world. We always want the champion, we do, but in life, I want [them] to be winning.”
There are going to be some changes to Louisa’s wrestling schedule this season, including an increase in the number of home events the Lions will host from one to four. The first home tournament will be the second annual David Wells Memorial Tournament on Dec. 14. Last season’s tournament was the lone home event on the Lions’ schedule.
They also add a pair of home tri-meets (where the Lions will host two other teams in a round-robin style competition), one of which will serve as their senior night competition.
Something else Elkins has added to the program is a name for the high school’s wrestling room, continuing the tradition established by The Jungle and The Den. The room, where the teams hold their practices, is now known as The Pit.
“I think, if we have ownership [of the space], we take more pride in it,” Elkins said.
The team even has a motto to go with the new name: ‘Lions don’t quit in The Pit because we have grit.’
The season won’t officially start until Nov. 11, but Elkins has held several open gyms and clinics for prospective wrestlers, which have been well attended.
“The kids who are coming to open mats have been working hard,” he said. “So far, what I’ve seen is a really dedicated group of good student athletes.”
Elkins also says he has several members of both the cross country and football teams who have committed to joining the team once their current seasons wrap up.
As the start of the season approaches, Elkins is excited for the future of the program.
“I want to spread the passion of the sport and to know at the end of the season that we have reached our goals and can set new goals,” he said.