“The fire he has breathed into us, although he is gone, will live in us forever. That’s what makes him such a great coach.”
Victor Grimaldo, wrestling assistant
MOUNT VERNON — Former Mount Vernon wrestling coach John Brown was recently inducted into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame, not only for what he did for the Yellow Jacket wrestling program, but for what he did for the sport of wrestling.
Brown began his head coaching tenure for the Jackets in 1995, a post he held until the 2015-16 season. In those 21 seasons, he had done enough to make Mount Vernon coaches John Frye, Kevin Peck and Steve Farmer, who all aided in gathering the application materials, think he had a shot at making it into the hall of fame.
“We sat around and took a look at what John’s done on paper and decided to submit,” Frye, who coached alongside Brown until taking over when Brown stepped down after the 2015-16 season, said. “We were submitting thinking he has a great shot. He took Mount Vernon wrestling to the next level.”
“While Brown was a coach, we didn’t care too much about the win-loss record,” said Victor Grimaldo, who was an assistant under Brown for more than a decade. “Because he was such a great coach, the results were there. What he created was more than just a wrestling team, it was a wrestling family.
“There is no other sport that had a family like the wrestling staff,” he added. “It’s too hard to step away. That’s the lesson he taught us. We want to be like Brown.”
In addition to the success he had with the Jackets, Brown carried his wrestling passion into the offseason, leading several AAU teams and programs.
“John coached a number of championship caliber kids over the years, but they’re also going to look at years of service and other things,” said Peck, who is also a member of the Ohio wrestling hall of fame. “The one thing I think stood out when I first looked at his resume was his offseason involvement in AAU stuff. That shows the committee he isn’t just doing it for his team, he is doing it for the state of Ohio.”
Brown started Team Ohio, an AAU program that involved some of the best wrestlers from around the state. That program sent four teams to the AAU Junior Olympic Games every year. He spent 17 years involved with AAU wrestling and his teams notched a combined three national championships and five runner-up finishes. He was rewarded as the 2013 AAU wrestling national coach of the year.
To be considered for the hall of fame, a resume and three letters of recommendation need to be submitted to the committee. According to Mickey Balmert, a member of the committee and hall of famer himself, there were six nominees for the committee to vote on admission to the hall of fame. The six nominees were ranked by the 22 committee members and to be enshrined, a nominee had to get at least 60 percent of the total votes.
“I start looking at how many state championship teams and how many kids they’ve gotten to state. I think we start by looking at that,” Balmert said, but continued to say that Brown’s resume went farther. “Each of the letters talked about his passion for wrestling. He was just so dedicated.”
Frye, who shared a corner with Brown for countless matches, shared that sentiment.
“John was very, very driven,” Frye said. “He was an excellent technician. He knew a lot about wrestling and he had a deep care for the kids.”
Of the six nominees this year, three were inducted in to the hall of fame.
“It seemed like a great class, so I was happy to see John get in because he was up against some strong competition,” Balmert said.
Brown stepped down as the head coach of the Jackets after the 2015-16 season to devote his time to officiating wrestling, but he passed away in a car accident in December of 2016. Although he is no longer contributing to wrestling, his memory will live on in Mount Vernon, and now it will also live on in the hall of fame.
“The fire he has breathed into us, although he is gone, will live on in us forever,” Grimaldo said. “That’s what makes him such a great coach.”