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Area wrestling coaches reflect on Kersey's legacy

Mike Kersey passed away Tuesday afternoon from injuries he suffered in an ATV accident over the weekend.

Kersey was a competitor; strived for excellence no matter what he was doing. He took over the wrestling team at Indian Land and quickly built it into one of the best in Class A.

He was a devoted family man, survived by his wife and three young children.

Word of Kersey's passing spread quickly and the loss had an impact on not only the Indian Land community, but on coaches in the area.

The following are comments from local wrestling coaches about their fallen colleague and friend:

DAVID SPENCER, YORK: My relationship with Coach Kersey began in 2005, my first year coaching wrestling. He impressed me the first time we met; not just with the fact that his team was full of some of the toughest, most technical wrestlers that I had seen, but because he came up to talk to me, the new coach, in a gym full of proven, successful leaders and egos a lot larger than the trophies that the kids were wrestling for.

We talked about what it was like trying to change a program and build it into something great, which is what he did at Indian Land. As our careers progressed, our talks began to change. We became closer as we both worked toward a master's degree from the University of South Carolina.

He spoke often of his family, and always showed great concern for mine. After the birth of our first child, he was one of the first to call and congratulate my wife and me, and after that, wrestling was always a distant second in our conversations. He bragged about his kids and showed me pictures of his son standing in the refrigerator looking for something to eat. "Definitely not ready for the mat yet!" He laughed. He loved his family.

He walked away from the sport in order to "coach" and teach his own children for a change, but his drive to make things and people better influenced him to start an after school program for all youth in an effort to battle youth obesity. Coach Kersey was just that; always a coach. Always trying to make people and things better, and whether he knew it or not, he made me better. Mike will be missed by many, but his legacy will continue on through the wrestling program that he worked so hard to build, through the countless numbers of children that he influenced everyday and through his family that always was his greatest accomplishment.

CHRIS BROCK, FORT MILL: It's just tragic, and I feel for his wife and those three young children. It almost seems unfair how quickly life can change.

I think probably most of us, at life's end, would hope that people would say that we were a good person. I can say from my years of knowing him that Mike was a good man. He loved his family, school and wrestlers.

I met Mike years ago at a local tournament. At the time, I was coaching in Rock Hill and would always see him at tournaments and camps in the spring and summer. He was always very complimentary of my wrestlers and looking for ways to make his kids and program better. If I had to describe Mike in one word, it would be "true." He was a student of the sport and was never too proud to ask for advice, assistance or help. That always impressed me about him. He was always seeking knowledge and opportunity to pass on to his kids, and that never changed.

Mike was a competitor and never used the excuse of Indian Land being a small school as a reason not to succeed. He called me every year to set up a dual meet, and put his kids on the mat against the best, regardless of who it was. Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Fort Dorchester, Eastside; it didn't matter. Because of that, he was able to produce some of the top kids in the state, regardless of classification. Because of his hard work and determination to succeed, he was good for us and S.C. wrestling in general.

There have been so many Indian Land kids who were as tough as they come. Mike expected them to not only win, but to train for it, and believe it. We have had some battles with those Indian Land kids over the years, and it was Mike who pushed them to believe in themselves and do battle against whoever stepped on the mat. At the end of the day, Mike would always compliment my guys on their performance and wish us luck the next time around. He was just a good guy.

South Carolina public education and the sport of wrestling lost a good man Tuesday. He will be sorely missed by this community and those who knew him.

CAIN BEARD, ROCK HILL: Mike Kersey was such a wonderful person to be around.

Since I arrived at Rock Hill five years ago, Mike was always ready to help us in any way possible. He was a great friend and I always enjoyed competing with Mike's teams. They were always ready to wrestle.

South Carolina wrestling suffered a tragic loss when we lost Kersey. Mike's family and all of Indian Land High are in the thoughts and prayers of the Rock Hill wrestling family.

EDDIE COOK, SOUTH POINTE: The thing I remember most about wrestling against one of his teams was that they were always going to fight. Mike instilled into his wrestlers that they could win, not just at wrestling, but at life.

As a coach he believed in his kids and instilled into them that same belief, that anything was possible. He brought intensity to the sport that not many coaches have anymore, but he could do it because the kids knew it was because he honestly thought they could do better. He had an old school mentality about wrestling that only a true wrestler could understand.

As a man he was extremely blessed with a wonderful wife and three children who meant the world to him. His passion was wrestling, but his love was his family.

Coach Herbert Johnson, former Indian Land wrestling coach who knew and worked with him for several years, said that he really believed in technique. He would spend an entire practice on one move until they got it right. He believed the "wrestler" was made off the mat, constantly asking how many push-up or pull ups did you do last night, or how far are you running now?

He would tell his guys once you have done a move a hundred times, do it a thousand more and make it your own. In order to succeed, you have to out work your opponent. Coach Johnson told me this story about one of Kersey's former wrestlers. One of his kids came back from either Iraq or Afghanistan and told him how they went out on a mission with full gear. On the way back he fell out and he could hear Coach Kersey yelling to get up, you're no quitter, get up. He got up and got back to the base. He kept hearing his coach's voice.

To sum up what coach Kersey brought to the sport: It was a love for the sport, a passion for winning and an intensity that inspired greatness in his athletes both on and off the mat. The sport has lost a great ambassador, and he will be greatly missed. S.C. wrestling is in mourning and will never forget his contributions, both on and off the mat.

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