Dear Mount Vernon,
From my perspective, our rivalry with Mount Vernon began the first day I met John Brown in December of 2006. It was my first season as Hayes’ head coach, and we came to Mount Vernon for the Wazie Tournament (now the Bad Apple Brawl). I was young and cocky; even though Hayes had not won a dual in five years, I thought I’d be able to turn things around in just one season (I had a lot to learn back then.) John, on the other hand, I remember, exuded confidence as a coach in a much different way. He was a seasoned, successful coach and he carried himself that way. He had the calm presence of a guy who knew his team was about to win the tournament … and his wrestlers, I remember, carried the same confidence. Sure enough, Mount Vernon won the tournament handily that day. In fact, Mount Vernon beat us in every tournament and dual we had with them for the next five years. Thus, I came to dislike Mount Vernon and John Brown very much, because, even though we made tremendous improvement, it seemed each year John and the Yellow Jackets were there to remind me how much further we had to go. And, if I am being honest, I envied him – his success, his calm-confidence, and the way people respected him and his team.
Here’s where it gets interesting. After five years of butt-kickings and frustrations at the hands of John Brown’s teams, I finally humbled myself to sit down next to him and pick his brain. Certain that no one was outworking us, I asked, “What is it, John, that keeps you constantly one step ahead of us?” For a while, he joked that it was his good looks and superior intelligence, then asked what we did in the off-season. I talked about some of the camps and tournaments, some of my guys did and our meager spring club. Eventually, he began to talk about Team Ohio and the Junior Olympic games, sometime of which I was only mildly aware.
He explained how he was the director, how he assembles 60 guys and a number of coaches for a four-day training camp and a week-long dual tournament. He vehemently advocated the benefits of the program. Then, he said “You should coach Team Ohio with me this year.”
I remember feeling strange for a second; I honestly thought it might’ve been some sort of trick, like the strategic line-up maneuvering he did to beat us in duals. It wasn’t. It was John’s true self, his dedication to growing the sport in Central Ohio, and using it to help teens grow into better men …even if those teens were his rivals. Well, I agreed. It was one of the best things I have ever done as a coach. Instantly, John shifted from being my foe to my colleague. That summer, I realized how much about our sport he knew, he became my mentor. And, after years of competing against each other and working together on Team Ohio, he became my friend. I learned that he beat us for years for many reasons beyond going to the JO’s in the summer.
It is difficult to realize the impact someone has on you (and others) until he is gone. Over the years, I spent more time — on the mats, in a gym, on a bus, in some hotel, or in a restaurant – with John that I did with members of my own family. Many in this gym tonight can say the same. As a coach, I will always remember his confident poise, his knowledge, and his organization. As an ambassador of the wrestling, I will remember his sense of humor and kind heart. I became a better coach, and our team at Delaware became better, because of John Brown.
To the Brown family, and Mount Vernon; I speak for all of our wrestlers, parents and coaches when I say that I am very, very sorry for your family’s, community’s, and program’s loss. His absence will be felt for a long time, but, through the many coaches, parents and wrestlers he has touched through the years, his legacy will live on even longer. In a humble gesture to honor John’s legacy, we at Delaware, had T-shirts made. The front of these T-shirts commemorate the respect we have for your program and the great wrestling rivalry we have developed over the years. On the back, they honor the fact that John Brown, a guy who set the bar for wrestling success, made us better. When the varsity line-ups are announced tonight, along with the usual handshake, our guys will be handing a shirt over to your guys, an effort to demonstrate that, as wrestlers, we can be rivals and respect each other at the same time. When those things go hand in hand, it brings out our best. In John’s honor, we at Delaware promise to make sure Team Ohio and our awesome rivalry will continue.
My deepest condolences,
Coach Josh Heffernan and the Delaware Wrestling Family
We are better because of John Brown.