Two former Rock Hill High School wrestling coaches were inducted into the Rock Hill Wrestling Circle of Honor on Tuesday night before the Bearcats’ tri-match with Lugoff-Elgin and Gastonia (N.C.) Ashbrook.
Tom Ellenberger and Jim Barnes were presented plaques by Rock Hill wrestling coach Cain Beard, who presided over the induction ceremony. The Circle of Honor adds two new members each year.
Ellenberger started the Rock Hill wrestling program in 1972. He coached the school’s first state champion wrestling team in 1980, after finishing as the runner-up the previous two seasons.
Ellenberger, who lives in Waynesboro, Ga., said he was honored by his inclusion in the Circle of Honor.
“This is really unbelievable,” said Ellenberger. “I was honored to start the program here, and with the hard work of some outstanding young men, we became very successful.”
Ellenberger, who coached at St. Andrews and Summerville high schools as well as the University of Georgia and Winthrop College (1983-84) during his career, felt like Rock Hill High School was a special place to coach.
“I really enjoyed my years here,” Ellenberger said. “We started that first team with 12 or 13 young men. I could see from their hard work that we were going to be successful from the beginning.”
Ellenberger added that as he has traveled over the years he is surprised to know how well-known the Bearcats wrestling program has become.
“When I tell people that I used to coach at Rock Hill, they always say they have heard of the program and its success,” he said.
Barnes, who lives in Rock Hill, but does extensive traveling to Florida, was very appreciative of being inducted into the Circle of Honor.
“Anytime you receive an accolade, it makes you feel good,” Barnes said. “This is very rewarding because of all of the great wrestlers I coached here, and the people who helped our program.”
Barnes coached 30 years in South Carolina. In addition to his long stint with the Bearcats he coached at Union and Airport high schools. He also coached 10 years in North Carolina.
Barnes was extremely successful. He won 14 state titles at Rock Hill and three at Airport. He also coached eight other teams that finished the year as the state runner-up. His overall record is 416-23.
Barnes said he was very thankful for all of the many people in Rock Hill who helped his program succeed.
“We had people help us with things who did not have a kid on the team. Barry Byers from The Herald also made sure that wrestling got good coverage, and that really helped us,” said Barnes, acknowledging The Herald’s former high school sports writer who died of cancer earlier this fall.
Both men have been awarded other honors for their longtime devotion to the sport. Ellenberger was inducted in the Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007, while Barnes was tapped for the South Carolina Chapter of the Wrestling Hall of Fame.