By Ethan Ruh
Collegiate’s varsity wrestling coach Andy Stone “was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, also known as Mat-Town USA,” due to wrestling’s influence and popularity in the town. Stone did not live in Mat-Town long, however, because he and his family “ moved around quite a bit” in his youth.
“My father was getting his graduate and Ph.D., so we had to move to Texas for a few years. After Texas, we moved to Maryland. That’s where I went to junior high and high school,” said Stone. Stone remembers having a relatively enjoyable and normal childhood. “I always had a group of friends in every place I lived. We would play sports, play in the woods, and run around and have fun. We’d leave in the morning and run wild until we came home. It was kind of the old-school way of growing up,” said Stone.
As a child, Stone was always surrounded by the sport of wrestling. “My father was a wrestling coach, so I was around the sport all the time. I also had a lot of other relatives and family friends who loved the sport as well,” said Stone. Stone wrestled for a year in Texas when he was young, but he “didn’t really start wrestling until [he] was in seventh grade.” Stone competed at the varsity level for his high school when he was a sophomore.
One of Stone’s favorite memories from high school is “when we tied our rival team, who had been undefeated for the longest time. I remember the gym being packed for the matches. It was such an awesome environment for high school wrestling.” Stone was a very accomplished wrestler in high school, and in his senior year was the Maryland state champion in the 119-pound weight class. “I loved the challenge and the unique focus needed to wrestle,” said Stone.
Due to his love of the sport, Stone wanted to pursue wrestling after high school. “I was recruited by a number of schools, the main ones were Old Dominion and the University of Tennessee. I ended up going to Old Dominion, but I ended up leaving after two years. I ended up at Tennessee for my last two years,” said Stone. Despite these accomplishments, Stone believes that his “college career was a little rocky.” Stone’s goal in college was to win in the NCAA tournament, but he never qualified. “College in general, as far as accomplishments go, was a bit disappointing, I don’t really feel like I reached my goals,” said Stone. In his college career, Stone suffered from injuries that made it difficult to qualify for the NCAA tournament. ”I ended up really hurting my ankles badly and missed some of the season,” said Stone. One of Stone’s most memorable matches in college during his senior year resulted in injury. “The last match before the qualifiers, I separated my collarbone. I did it at the beginning of the match and still ended up winning. I had to score seven points in the last ten seconds, and I ended up winning with a separated collarbone,” said Stone.
After leaving college, Stone took the position of assistant wrestling coach at the University of Tennessee where he coached at least one wrestler in the NCAA finals. After a year at Tennessee, Stone left and coached at a nearby high school for a year. However, while coaching, Stone realized that he wanted to continue to compete. He planned to wrestle in Arizona with the Sunkist Kids Club, one of the main organizations for post-graduate wrestlers. “I was driving to Arizona, but my car broke down. I got a train ticket to Arizona and kind of just showed up there. I didn’t really know anybody. I just went to the wrestling room and met people and started training there,” said Stone. “We would train in Arizona, and then the club would send us to big tournaments around the country and some in Canada. The tournaments would be against the best guys around the country and against the best international wrestlers,” said Stone.
In later years, Stone went on to train at many different colleges on the East Coast, and he wrestled for New York Athletic Club. It was Stone’s goal to “get on the national team and ultimately the Olympic team.” Stone was very dedicated to his training and worked extremely hard to improve in the sport. Stone remembers a specific match from the Olympic trials leading up to the ‘88 Olympics: “I was wrestling a guy who was ranked about 4th. I was struggling in the match and was beginning to have doubts, but I made a shift and decided to just go for it. Those worries and anxiousness went away, and I opened up and ended up winning that match.”
“I worked my way up, but I didn’t make it quite to the top tier, which would be the national team, but I was about in the second or third tier,” said Stone. At 27, he decided to stop competing. “I saw myself getting better, but it was really hard to stay competing… I was ready to move on at that point,” said Stone. Even though he did not make it to the Olympics, “It was a really good experience, I’m very glad I pursued this after college,” said Stone.
After he stopped competing, Stone went back to Old Dominion University and was also an assistant coach. Stone got an English degree and later earned a masters degree in Physical Education and Fitness. After graduate school, he coached at a number of different high schools. In 2001, Stone and his family decided to move to Richmond and join the Collegiate community. Stone has had two children both graduate from Collegiate, Zoe (‘11) and Chai Cooper-Stone (’16). Zoe is 25 and working, and Chai is a sophomore at Christopher Newport University. Currently, Stone is a Middle School PE coach and “put[s] a big emphasis on movement, development, and weight room for the 7th and 8th graders.”
Stone is also a coach of the varsity and JV wrestling team at Collegiate. Coach Stone is passionate about all he does and truly cares about his team and his students. “He cares a lot about his team,” said wrestler Clay Ryan (‘20). “He is so dedicated to his team. He will do all he can to help us become better wrestlers. He spends a lot of his free time working with us on the weekends and in the off-season,” said varsity wrestler Marshall Campbell (‘20). Stone’s knowledge of the sport and kind-hearted character are gifts to the Collegiate community. The Collegiate wrestlers are fortunate to have such an experienced wrestler as a coach and as a friend. “He is the most humble person I know, and has such incredible accomplishments from his past,” Campbell (‘20).
When asked to give advice to any young wrestler, Stone answered with, “do it for the love of the sport. You can always work to improve your skills, mental and physical.”