Longtime southside wrestling coach Don Williams moving to North Carolina for family reasons

Forest Park head wrestling coach and Creekside Christian Academy Dean of Discipline Don Williams will be leaving the southside to attend to the health of his father in North Carolina. (Special Photo: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

FOREST PARK — Forest Park head wrestling coach and Creekside Christian Academy Dean of Discipline Don Williams will be leaving the southside to attend to the health of his father in North Carolina.

Williams will be the head wrestling coach and athletic director at a school in Hillsborough, N.C. to be closer to his father.

“My father is 85. As of right now he’s good, but he’s on oxygen 24-7, he’s had a triple bypass,” Williams said. “His health is not going to improve. He’s not in a hospice, he’s not going to die anytime soon, but he may live six months or six years. I just wanted to be near him. I felt like if I didn’t make this move I would regret it.”

Williams said that he came to the decision over the last few months with the help of his family. He will be living with his father until his wife joins him in August. Many things fell into place to ensure he could make the move. Creekview’s administration helped him during his coaching search, and his new school in Hillsborough had been in desperate need of an Athletic Director.

“They’ve actually needed an athletic Director, everything fell into place,” he said. “This is not a Don story, this is a God story. I couldn’t have pulled all these strings to make this happen.”

Over the last few seasons, Williams has worked as the Dean of Discipline at Creekside, while also continuing to coach at Forest Park High. Williams said there were several seniors on the Forest Park wrestling team that he wanted to finish coaching.

This past season, many of those seniors helped Forest Park to one of the best seasons in school history. The Panthers won the Clayton County and Area 4-AAAAAA duals championships, and were the only Clayton County team to advance to the state duals championships.

At the state traditional championships, Forest Park’s Kenen Uribe-Ochoa became the first wrestler in school history to compete for a state title, finishing as the runner-up in the Class AAAAAA 120-pound division. Uribe-Ochoa was one of seven wrestlers to compete at the state championships, where Forest Park finished 20th out of 61 teams — another school record.

Williams said that he is thankful that Creekside’s administration, led by Headmaster Rodney Knox, allowed him the opportunity to finish his career in Georgia in such a special way.

“I’m so thankful to Creekview,” he said. “When they hired me two years ago, there was one string, there was one thing I needed to do and it was the commitment to those seniors. I wanted to finish with those guys. They bent over backwards and allowed me to do that. Finishing up with that senior group, I’ve had them for four years and we get attached to these kids, it’s really a special group. The way it ended, it was like a movie.”

Williams will leave with 500 career wins and having coached multiple wrestlers to state championships. He has been a mainstay on the southside, coaching at Eagle’s Landing High, Stockbridge, Lovejoy, Forest Park and Creekside during his career.

He said he will miss the relationships he has made as he embarks on a new chapter in his life.

“My wife tells me, she calls wrestling season ‘the boys club,’” Williams said. “When we go to tournaments we’re hanging out and telling war stories because we’ve known each other 30-plus years. It’s a great group of guys I’ve coached against and with, some I’ve coached myself. The memories go decade after decade, they are memories I’ll never forget.

“I’m 60 years old, but honestly I’m trying to do this for 30 more years in North Carolina,” he continued. “It’s the fountain of youth, staying around these kids keeps me young and motivated. I have as much passion today as I did when I started in my 20s. I’m very humbled to be around the group of men and women I’ve been around. Very blessed, very blessed.”

Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.

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