For years Steve Henry has repeatedly rejected the idea of someone putting his name on what he calls the Soddy-Daisy wrestling arena.
With the announcement of his resignation Wednesday, the wrestling coach can no longer put off what numerous groups of fans, parents and former wrestlers have sought to do.
Henry, more than 25 years ago, managed to lay claim to the gym on Highway 27 that once was home to Soddy-Daisy basketball and wrestling teams. The last teacher left from the faculty who taught at the old school, Henry slowly resurrected the building and made a home for Trojans wrestling, and if for no other reason than sweat and blood the building is his.
While he is resigning as wrestling coach, the personable Henry will remain a part of Soddy-Daisy, moving into administration on a full-time basis beginning with an assignment as assistant principal to John Maynard.
"Steve is and has been a gung-ho type, but he never comes across that way," Maynard said. "He is an outstanding motivator. He would get the kids motivated in practice. He would motivate them to do the right things in school, and then he would motivate them to be winners. He pushed them. He is so good at finding the right buttons to push to make people want to do their very best."
What makes him ideal as an administrator is his interest in the entire community.
"I have a circle of five or six people that I consider leaders and bounce ideas off of and he's one of those. He's professional in that he's in to what he's doing but he cares about the school and the other sports and other teachers and especially the students," Maynard said.
Henry was a successful coach, posting an approximate 610 wins against 162 losses, a .790 win percentage.
The Trojans had just two losing campaigns in Henry's 27 seasons, his first in 1983 and then three years ago. He had a 30-win season in 2006 and a 22-1 performance in 2007.
"He has built that program into one of the finest programs in the Southeast," Cleveland coach Mike Phillips said. "It's a great day for administration, but to me it's a sad day. Steve has been an incredible ambassador for the sport. He's like the godfather of wrestling. People love and respect him.
"He has built a rich tradition at Soddy-Daisy, and the wrestling program will be fine because of the structure he has put in place, but it's still a sad moment for people in the sport who love and revere him. He has no idea how deeply he has touched the coaches, the sport, the wrestlers and the parents."
During his tenure, Soddy-Daisy won four traditional state titles and finished runner-up five times. The Trojans also captured four duals team championships with four runners-up trophies and one third-place finish.
"I have been around and learned from some awesome people like Pete Potter, Raymond James, Tom Weathers, Ethan Reeve and Major [Luke] Worsham," Henry said, "and Steve McClure, who was my assistant when I was first getting started, was a big influence on my career. I just always tried to be sponge and soak up all I could. I have copied other's philosophies, tried to make them my own and then make them work for other people.
"I told my girls that it hasn't always been easy, and it hasn't always been fun. I remember those times in my career when I questioned myself. It's a lonely time, but other coaches know what I'm talking about."
Henry coached 35 state champions and had a four-time state winner in Campbell Lewis this year. Jake Yost in 2002 and Lewis won state meet "outstanding" honors.
"The best way to describe Steve is to say he's the one you'd want your son to be coached by. That's the best compliment I know of to give him," said legendary Baylor and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Jim Morgan. "He has succeeded through tireless work. And just as an example, I wish people could see what it looked like when he took over that [gym] up on the hill and what it looks like now. It just shows how he did things first-class but quietly. He is a first-class person.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...