Martin reaches 500th win as Sherando wrestling coach

Pepper Martin

STEPHENS CITY – Pepper Martin reached a big milestone on Saturday.

The Sherando wrestling coach won his 500th career match as the Warriors beat Woodgrove, 45-33, in the first match of the Kettle Run Dual Tournament.

“Back when I first started my coaching career it wasn’t even a thought that I would, first of all, experience this level of longevity not just being a head coach in one sport, but two sports back-to-back,” said Martin, who is also Sherando’s baseball coach. “As the years went on, all the quality young men that we’ve had to work with as far as the wrestling program, and the outstanding coaches that I’ve had coach with me, they’re all a big part of this without question.”

Martin is the only head wrestling and baseball coach Sherando has had. He started in 1993 when the school first opened, so it was also the wrestling program’s 500th victory on Saturday. Martin said he still remembers the first win, which was a 72-0 victory over Loudoun County.

Martin, in his 23rd year as coach, said assistant coaches Joel Elmquist and Brian Kibler have been a big part of the 500 victories. He said that Elmquist has been there for over half of the program’s wins and Kibler for over 30 percent of the wins.

“Having some continuity within the coaching staff certainly hasn’t hurt,” Martin said. “… I would put my coaching staff up against any in the state of Virginia as far as their expertise and how they interact with our wrestlers and their wealth of knowledge — both of them were collegiate wrestlers. Coach Elmquist and coach Kibler have played a big role in the success of our program.”

Sherando has never had a losing season in wrestling, and has won five region titles, placing as high as fifth in the state tournament.

Martin said he’s very lucky that he’s such great athletes and people come through his wrestling program.

“The quality of the young men that I’ve been blessed to be able to work with have provided a continuity to the program,” Martin said. “The level of success and tradition that was established by the wrestlers that first started the program and then those that have followed have allowed us to be consistently competitive.”

The Warriors went 5-0 on Saturday to win the Kettle Run Dual Tournament. Sherando’s Mike Duffy (126), Curtis Gutheridge (145), James Platts (152), Mikeal Neff (160), Kendall Helsley (170), John Borst (182) and Ben Avery (285) each went 5-0 in the tournament and each received a medal for the accomplishment.

Martin’s record is now 504-124, a winning percentage of .803. Sherando is 26-1 this season.

Last year Martin received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Virginia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Martin said that he’s been blessed with great support from the parents and community as a whole as well as the administration at Sherando. He said the 500 wins is not just about him individually.

“Reaching this milestone is not anywhere close to an individual honor — it’s a group effort,” Martin said. “All the coaches that have come before, that have coached for me are a big part of that 500. The wrestlers, if we had some athletes that didn’t really buy into our team concept or what we were trying to accomplish, it wouldn’t have been attainable.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or