For 22 years, Tracy Agney has been growing a crop of wrestlers through Shelbyville Jr. Rams Kid Club Wrestling. On Thursday, the Shelbyville School Board hired Agney as the head varsity wresting coach.

Wrestling Coach Greg Harkins chose to take a step back after 9 years, as his family continues growing. Harkins and his wife Kate, both teachers, have two young daughters and now have twins on the way.

Harkins took the Shelbyville Rams, not only to Individual State, but to Team State. Two wrestlers in the Ram stable were undefeated State Champions, Adam Hudson and Garrett Brachbill.

With Harkins stepping back, who else would the district turn to? How about a former Ram wrestler and the coach that has been sending the high school a crop of kids every year for over two decades.

Agney has also been the Moulton Middle School wrestling coach for 8 years, since it began. He has also coached from the corner of the mat at IHSA State.

Agney was asked if he was glad to be the varsity wrestling coach.

“Absolutely!”

But he didn’t talk about himself, as much as he talked about the people in the program and the various kids he has seen come through it.

“I hated to see Greg go, but I understand with the twins on the way,” Agney said. “Greg did a great job of getting the boys in better physical shape than their opponents. We will always do that.”

Agney looks forward to being the coach, but also was thinking of the place of those he coached, that are now helping to coach.

“I had mixed emotions, thinking it was time for the younger guys to step up.” Agney said. “But, I thought, ‘You are either all in or your all out!’ I talked to Adam (Hudson) and Wyatt (Fox) and Caleb (Duckett). We have a great core group of coaches, that I coached as a kids. Now they are men, state qualifiers and state medalists. With the coaches we have, it will be great having more eyes in the room.”

Agney is happy to see the program where it is.

“I see that we could take another run,” Agney said. “The sky is the limit for this group. We will start spreading out in weight classes.”

Coming through kid wrestling and junior high some of the kids are stacked up in the same weight classes. Sometimes they get stuck behind another wrestler and don’t get a chance to show what they can do.

Teams can have too many wrestlers in a few classes and yet have to forfeit in other weight classes. Agney not only thinks the Rams are talented, but as they mature physically in high school they will spread out among more weight classes, which gives them more opportunity and helps the team, as a whole.

Agney said they had a good group of underclassmen last year, but they had to make the tough transition to high school. The same thing will happen to the good group of 8th graders moving up next year

“They took their beatings,” Agney said. “In junior high, they were like the Murderer’s Row a few years ago. But, moving up to high school is a big difference. You go from being 8th graders to being, freshmen having to wrestle seniors.”

Agney said regardless of taking their lumps, the freshmen last year lived up to their expectations.

“You get better with losses,” Agney said, “More than you do winning all the time.”

Agney also said you make more progress in practice than you do at meets.

“Tournaments and meets, that’s not where you get better,” Agney said. “This is where we bake the cake, in practice, beating the heck out of each other. Then at the meets, we get to eat the cake.”

Agney also talked about the mindset in the Ram program.

“At State in 8th grade, Calvin Miller was undefeated and took a loss in the semifinal. I was devastated for him, but he came to me right after the match and said, ‘O.K. what do I do to win the 3rd place match?’ He was right on to the next match, wanting to get better.”

Agney said that he wants them all to have that same mindset, because sometimes in high school wrestlers can settle for good enough.

“They all have to get that mindset, ‘What’s the next step?’,” Agney said. “We have a great work ethic, and that starts at home. We just hope to build off of that. Its great to be part of that. They also can get that leadership from their peers.”

Agney acknowledged that the COVID-19 crisis could be a challenge going forward, like in others sports.

“Normally, there would be open gyms starting and off-season tournaments,” Agney said. “All of that is now on hold.”

There is not much kids can do on their own, except stay in shape. Lifting weights can help, but also be counter-productive, actually hurting some techniques. Agney is just hoping for open gyms sometime this summer.

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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