MARION — Former Avery High School teacher and head wrestling coach Derrick Calloway has accepted a position as social studies teacher and head wrestling coach with East McDowell Middle School in Marion.

Calloway, who led the Avery wrestling program since 2012, stepped down on March 29 to “address some personal medical issues,” according to a statement attributed to Calloway which was confirmed through Avery County Schools.

According to Calloway, his health concerns are behind him and he looks forward to his next opportunity for employment.

“I am fit as a fiddle, and look forward to the opportunity to teach and coach the students at East McDowell. McDowell County Schools have welcomed me with open arms, and in the short time that I have had contact with administration and coworkers, I feel like this is going to be a great experience,” Calloway said in a Friday, July 26, interview. “I think my work ethic will be much appreciated in the county. I look forward to working in the same district as my wife for the first time ever. I also think I have a much greater opportunity to advance in my career than I did in previous employment.”

Calloway applied to the position in McDowell after hearing of an opening and went through the interview process. He also noted the excitement regarding the familiarity of leadership in his new county of employment.

“When I was offered the job I truly felt like this was where I was being led to,” Calloway explained. “I think just the sheer size of the district gives me a better chance to move up professionally, along with the appreciation of your hard work and dedication there. I briefly got to work with Mr. [Mark] Garrett when he was principal at Avery High School. He actually hired me at Avery and appointed me to head wrestling coach. All I have heard are great things about him as superintendent in McDowell, and Avery County still feels the effects of his departure. I look forward to having his leadership again.”

Following more than seven years working with the student-athletes at ACHS, Calloway noted that he felt that all of his goals entering the coaching post were accomplished, including returning Avery County Wrestling to state prominence in grappling circles. One of the most difficult parts of moving South to Marion will be the relationships and working with his wrestlers on a regular basis, and Calloway expressed great expectations for the coming season’s squad.

“I will miss not being able to work with the athletes that I have built strong, positive relationships with on and off the mat,” Calloway explained. “I am fully confident that wrestling will win the first state championship this season for Avery County in any athletic program. The years of sweat, tears, dedication and pure drive has set this team up for inevitable success this season.”

Although the coach will be coaching at the middle school level in a neighboring county, much of Calloway’s heart lies with the grapplers he has taught and coaches he has worked alongside of not only at ACHS, but through Dogtown Wrestling Club, which has set the table for the success of several of the Viking grapplers who currently excel and have brought home state wrestling championships to Big Red Country.

“Dogtown will be the club that my son will go to if he so chooses, and it is the club I recommend any parent to take their child to if they are interested in wrestling, including students at East McDowell, as I believe it is the best wrestling club in our region,” Calloway added. “I have a strong relationship with the club coaches and commend everything they stand for, as well as their methods of instruction. I plan to still continue to have my personal relationships with all the club coaches. In wrestling, you form a family and a relationship like that goes beyond the mat.”

In retrospect, many people have blessed Calloway to be able to live out his dream of coaching at his alma mater, and countless people were credited for shaping his success.

“I want to thank the past, present and future members of Avery County Wrestling for allowing me to be the head coach for the last seven seasons. I consider it a great honor,” Calloway said. “I know I have left the program in a better position than when I arrived. I can’t wait to see Avery County Schools end the team state championship drought with Avery County Wrestling, and I can’t wait to be there to watch. But I’m also excited for the opportunity to coach East McDowell Wrestling and look forward to growing the wrestling program in the county.”

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