Warriors’ Martin to receive award

Pepper Martin

STEPHENS CITY — Even now, about six months after being chosen as a recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Virginia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Sherando wrestling coach Pepper Martin can’t believe it.

“It is all kind of surreal right now,” Martin said Wednesday afternoon.

Martin, who has coached Sherando’s wrestling program since the school opened in 1993, will be one of six individuals to be given the award at a banquet on April 18 at Wyndham Virginia Crossings in Glen Allen.

Martin said John Pegues, a longtime friend and former wrestling coach at Fauquier High School who is now a board member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Virginia Chapter, delivered Martin the news via a phone call that he had nominated the longtime Sherando coach for the Lifetime Achievement Award last August.

“When he told me that, I was shocked and surprised to say the least. I thought with those types of awards you usually had to be retired, a former teacher and coach,” Martin said.

After his nomination, Martin had to fill out some paperwork detailing his coaching history and accomplishments, he said, and he learned he was accepted by the chapter’s board of directors around October.

“I wasn’t only honored by it, but surprised and definitely humbled by the whole process of being first nominated and then voted upon then getting inducted into this,” Martin said.

Martin, who has amassed 478 wins in dual matches during his coaching career, guided Sherando to a fifth-place finish at the Group 4A state tournament earlier this year. In his career, Martin has coached four individual state champions, 55 state place winners, 54 individual district/conference champions and 33 regional champions. He is also the co-founder of the Massanutten Matmen Wrestling Club.

Martin said he first “got the coaching bug” from helping his father coach a Little League baseball team in Winchester at the age of 13.

In 1982, the legendary James “Willie” Walters appointed Martin as the freshman wrestling coach at James Wood High School. Following Walters’ death in 1983, Jaye Copp took over as the school’s varsity wrestling coach and named Martin as his assistant in 1984. Martin took a leave of absence the following year to attend graduate school at the University of Virginia and returned to assist Copp from 1986 to 1993.

Martin, who attended John Handley High School, said his father was his biggest role model and idol, though he added that his interactions with former Handley boys basketball coach and athletic director Jimmy Omps and former wrestling coach C.B. Ashby helped “formulate and establish what might later transform into my coaching philosophy, my interactions with student-athletes, how to organize and operate practices.”

Martin said his career as a wrestling coach in particular was directly influenced by Walters and later by Copp, whom Martin considered to be like an older brother.

“I took a lot of lessons that I learned from coaching with [Copp] and that’s how I wanted to establish the program here, where your wrestlers win with humility, lose with dignity and carry themselves with class both on and off the mat,” Martin said.

Martin also gave credit to the assistant coaches he’s worked with at Sherando over the last 22 years, as well as the wrestlers who have come through the program and bought into the principles that Martin wanted Sherando wrestling to be built on.

“This certainly isn’t an award that was accomplished by one person,” Martin said. “Those role models that I had growing up … they have a huge part in this and if this award could be divided into a hundred different pieces it would most certainly be deserved because I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”

With locations in Stillwater, Oklahoma and Waterloo, Iowa, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame was founded in 1976 as a privately funded museum to preserve the history of wrestling, recognize excellence and inspire generations of wrestlers and fans of the sport.

The Virginia State Chapter is one of 36 state chapters across the nation affiliated with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

For ticket information, contact Nancy Perry at 757-393-1149 or go to www.va-nwhof@ticketleap.com.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com