After helping start the program a decade ago, Owensboro wrestling coach Kenny Stone stepped down from his position last week after the veteran coach helped start multiple wrestling programs the ‘Boro in the last 20 years.
When asked why how he came to his decision, Stone said he felt it was time for future Red Devils to have someone that can battle with them on the mat.
“I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “This sport is very hard to coach. I’ve coached other sports, not at the high school level but I’ve coached basketball for my kids, baseball, soccer. Wrestling is hands-on. When it’s the day to learn the lateral drop, you can’t point, blow the whistle and tell them how to do it. You’ve got to grab them and show them then you’ve got to let them do it to you. At 64 years old, it doesn’t work like it used to.”
Owensboro athletic director said Stone has given a lot to the school and the program.
“Coach Stone started our program from scratch with Athletic Director Harley Trogdlen about 10 years ago,” he said. “He has always had great relationships with our student-athletes and his knowledge of the sport will be greatly missed. It will be difficult to find someone to step into this position that knows what all it takes to run a program. Coach Stone is one of a kind.”
Before he helped start the Red Devils program, Stone moved back to the area about 20 years ago and did the same at Apollo but it didn’t quite start in the way he anticipated.
When they moved from North Carolina back to the area, Stone’s son Joey was entering his sophomore season.
He spoke to Apollo and asked if Joey could compete as an individual and with Stone have a Master’s Degree, he became the coach as well.
He admitted he didn’t know as much about the sport then as he does now.
“It’s only because he wrestled,” he said of his knowledge of the sport. “I didn’t know how to coach wrestling. I’d been around it and I knew the coach up there (North Carolina) really well. He was awesome. They had a really good team but I picked up little stuff, never thinking I would be doing that. Maybe I would have paid more attention if that would have been my plan. I volunteered to drive the school bus for them so I drove the school bus and went to all the meets.”
When he was nearing the end of his time at Apollo, then Owensboro AD Harley Trogdlen reached out to him about helping the program at OHS get off the ground.
Stone said he put Trogdlen in touch with someone that could get them a mat and before that mat was ever inside Owensboro High School, it was at the state tournament, with the Red Devils logo displayed proudly.
After the state tournament that year, the mat was delivered to OHS and the rest is history as Trodglin soon talked to Stone about doing what he did at Apollo at Owensboro. While he was at Apollo, Stone also helped get the program at DC off the ground but never took over the head coaching position as he stayed at Apollo until the move to Owensboro.
Stone said Trodglin said he would provided whatever he needed.
“Owensboro, they went over the top,” he said. “They bought two brand new mats. They bought two brand new clocks. They took one of the locker rooms, gutted it and turned it into a wrestling room. Anything we’ve needed, they’ve always supported it.”
Stone said he’s had many formers wrestlers that made an impact on him, including former Apollo standout Clay Kuegel who entered the Marine Corps then returned to help Stone at OHS.
Even though he stepped down last week, Stone admitted he was prepared to leave the program a year ago until he heard another school in town was starting their own wrestling program.
Stone was meeting with Harper about stepping down when Harper mentioned the Aces were preparing to field a team this season. It was then Stone rethought he decision.
“I may have to stick around,” he said. “When I heard that and I first started all this, it was me throwing my son in the backseat of the car and traveling all over the shot. I thought how great it would be if you didn’t have to leave. You didn’t have to drive to Louisville, Lexington or Covington. Wouldn’t be great if we had wrestling here.”
Stone said something he’s thought about for the better part of two decades is finally coming to fruition.
“The dream, what I thought of way back 17 years go, is just now come about,” he said. “With this many schools right here in town, probably a third of the entire season could be done and never leave town.”
When ask what’s changed in the sport in the area, Stone quickly said everything.
“The growth of the sport in this state has been unbelievable,” he said. “When we started at Apollo in 2001, we were the seventh team in Region 1. They had Union County, Caldwell County, Christian County, Hopkinsville, Fort Campbell and Paducah. That was it.”
He said the level of competition has gone up across the state.
Stone’s legacy at OHS is now finished as he’s the man that put the wrestling program on the map and even though he’s coach several other sports throughout his life, if he’s asked what kind of coach he is, Stone says firmly that he’s a wrestling coach.
“I don’t even think about that other stuff anymore.”
The search is already underway for the next coach as the job is currently posted on the Owensboro Public Schools website.