By R. Alan Richardson
There comes a time in every coach’s life when he or she gets ‘Godfathered’. They get an offer they just can’t refuse. That was the case for head wrestling coach, John Robbins and his family, when the Valdosta Wildcats came calling and offered him the job to run their highly-touted wrestling program. In researching Valdosta’s Facebook page, an interesting statement was made about their outgoing coach. It said, “An excellent Coach is hard to find, difficult to part with, and impossible to forget. Thanks for so many great seasons! You will be greatly missed!” This writer and all the players, parents, and fans could echo that sentiment exactly about our coach as we all say farewell to one of the finest coaches and mentors the Bulldogs have ever had in any sport.
Robbins has taken the wrestling program at Morgan County to new heights and state contention every year, has been a mainstay on the football field as the offensive coordinator, and spent time coaching up the tennis teams during his tenure. There were some years of his 12 seasons at MOCO that Robbins coached all three sports without a break in between seasons. He’s an iron man with the work ethic of a Spartan. One other place that he will be sorely missed is in our strength and conditioning program where he sets the bar high for ALL athletes in his weight training classes.
His resume looks like a who’s who of wrestling, football, and tennis awards scattered throughout starting in high school and continuing through college wrestling at Georgia State University and his coaching career. Some of his major athletic accomplishments include being selected to the Screven County Hall of Fame, finishing in the Top Four in AAA wrestling the past five seasons, five-time Region Coach-of-the-Year, and being selected as an all-state tennis player in high school. Robbins also excelled as a student. While at GSU he was named to the All-Conference All-Academic squad four straight years. That’s only the tip of the iceberg folks.
Here are some things he talked about in our interview. “Leaving Morgan County is like leaving home. Our kids have known nothing else, and this community has invested so much into them and my family that I can’t thank everyone enough. It is unbelievably tough to separate from the athletes and parents who we have experienced so much with. We have a church family and leader in Madison Baptist and Dr. Charles Smith who have made the happiness of my children and wife a priority. I have been fortunate to work with some unbelievable individuals during my time here. Dr. Mark Wilson, Bill Malone, Kenny Moore, and Jerry McCullough are just a few who impacted me greatly. Morgan County has been a legitimate threat in football wrestling for a long time, and I’d like to think that during my time here that that didn’t change.”
He turned his attention to Valdosta High School. When asked what most attracted him to Valdosta he said, “The opportunity to start again in an entirely different world down there is something that Jodi and I are very excited about. VHS finished fourth in 6A last year with two state runners-up and five total medalists. They are a strong team and have been for a long time. The new challenge arises in that it will be a much larger classification that brings different foes.”
A number of John’s superiors weighed in on his success and what it means to be losing him to another school.
Former Superintendent, Dr. Stan Dejarnett said, “John Robbins is one of the finest teachers I ever worked with, and one of the most professional. Every team, program, or class he led was consistently outstanding.”
Dr. Jim Malanowski gave these words of high praise for the coach saying, “It was always heart-warming to watch John Robbins coach a wrestler after a match. How much he cared about each one of them showed through in how he treated them. It was obvious he wasn’t just training athletes. He was building young men.”
Robbins’ former athletic director, Steve Cisson, wrapped up his success in short form. “Coach Robbins has done a lot of good service for our community and school. He does two or three things very well. 1. He can flat-out teach. 2. He can motivate kids. 3. He’s organized. An example I’ll give you is how John can put on a wrestling tournament with 20+ teams and it will go off without a hitch. That’s not easy to do. The other thing I’ve seen is how he can take a kid, any kid, and if the young man will stick with it, he’ll make something out of him. Valdosta is gaining a good family, a family of teachers that will make an impact.”
Current Athletic Director, Doug Connelly, put in these words, “One of the highest compliments a coach can receive is for someone to say ‘I would like my child to be coached by him’. That’s how I feel about John Robbins. He runs a successful program both on and off the field and mat. He commands great respect from students and student-athletes alike. This can be attributed to the consistency and organizational skills that he brings to the table every day. The sustained success of the wrestling program is a true testament to his hard work, dedication, and exceptional coaching ability. It is evident that he has made a large impact during his tenure at Morgan County. The number of former players who return and stay involved in the program demonstrates the positive influence he has had on the young men under his guidance. It is bittersweet to see Coach Robbins leave, but he has an outstanding opportunity at Valdosta. I look forward to watching that program grow with him in charge. We appreciate him leaving his mark on the Morgan County athletic program.”
In a few short words, let’s just say to the Robbins family, “Congratulations and good luck. You will be missed.”