A tough decision

FCHS wrestling coach stepping down after 11 seasons

By Linda Younkin, Published:

It’s been a long run, a successful one, and one that’s hard to end.

Zac Donnelly has resigned as wrestling coach at Franklin County High School after 11 years as the head coach. He’ll remain at FCHS as an art teacher.

“It was a really tough decision for me and my family,” Donnelly said, “especially how passionate I am about the sport and the bonds you make with the student-athletes.”

It was family that played a big role in the decision. Donnelly and his wife, Jennifer, have one son, Beckham, who turned 1 April 15.

“After talking with my family I felt it was the right decision,” he said. “My son just turned one, and I want to watch him grow up. Hopefully, if he’s interested, I’ll get to coach him one day in whatever sport he chooses.”

Donnelly participated in soccer and wrestling while attending Lafayette High School. He was state runner-up in 1998 at Lafayette and played soccer at Georgetown College.

He coached boys soccer at FCHS for 10 years, the last seven as head coach, resigning from that position prior to the 2013 season.

“There’s the team aspect of soccer,” Donnelly said. “I loved coaching a team, working together to create one unit. I like the individual aspect of wrestling.

“The bonds you make with a lot of kids, the time with spend with them, that’s what I’ll miss most; spending time with them, the life lessons you’re able to teach that they’ll hopefully carry over later in life.”

During his tenure as wrestling coach, Donnelly has had 64 wrestlers qualify for the state tournament with 15 placing in the top eight at state. He’s also coached 15 regional champions.

In the 2013-14 season, the Flyers qualified a school-record 11 wrestlers for the state tournament. They qualified for the state duals in the 2012-13 season, and Donnelly was voted the Region 7 Coach of the Year.

Those are among his favorite memories as wrestling coach.

“Last year when we were regional runner-up was really exciting,” Donnelly said, “and the first time we qualified for state duals. Having three individual state runners-up has been exciting.”

The state runners-up were Josh Lopez and Jeremy Gardner in 2010 and Tevon Clay in 2013.

In addition to teaching, Donnelly recently began a business venture with his brothers, Kore and Xavier, who started Blue Stallion Brewing Co., based in Lexington, last July.

“It was always a dream of ours to open a business together, the three of us,” Donnelly said. The business has two other partners — Jim Clemons and Nico Schulz.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in,” he said, “and we spent a lot of time last summer to get it open.”

Knowing when to step down as coach is never easy, and Donnelly’s leaving the program in good shape. The Flyers will return six of the 11 state qualifiers from last season and the middle school program is strong.

“I’ve had great support from my coaching staff,” Donnelly said. “My family has been very involved in the program, and we’ve had great parental involvement. It’s kind of been a community effort to create a positive and successful program.

“It’s by no means been just me. I’ve had a lot of help, and I appreciate everyone’s time and effort.”

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