By Gabriel Stovall
FOREST PARK, Ga. — Cancel the going away party and the farewell plans for Forest Park wrestling coach Don Williams.
As it turns out, the long time Panthers coach isn’t going anywhere.
A few months ago when the wrestling season began, Williams billed it as his last in Clayton County — his last teaching and coaching in a public school setting.
That touched off a series of tributes and salutes to Williams who has coached for 30 years at such places as Eagle’s Landing, Lovejoy, Monroe Area and Loganville. At virtually every big tournament or meet, people were paying homage to a man who had used wrestling to not only make kids better athletes, but also better men.
But on Friday morning, Williams — who also coached Forest Park football for a season — called an audible, announcing to his team that he will returned.
“I was Athens bound until about two weeks ago when coach Daniel Helena told me that he, in fact, was not coming back to you guys next year,” said Williams, regarding his assistant coach who was tabbed to replace him. “My heart broke as I knew that Daniel and I were the only two wrestling coaches here, and we were both leaving.”
Williams’ team returned 30 wrestlers in 2016-17 and all 14 starters. But it wasn’t just next year’s potential that caused Williams to renege on his plans to leave.
“I knew that we were the only church, through Fellowship of Christian Athletes, that these guys had,” Williams said. “I prayed that the Lord would take care of our guys. Well, he did, in the form of a job offer at my wife’s school.”
Williams was offered an assistant principal position at Creekside Christian Academy in McDonough which is about a 25 minute drive away from Forest Park, as opposed to the two hour trek eastward to Athens.
“They’re going to let me go every day at 3:30 so I can go to Forest Park and coach my kids,” Williams said.
The deal also seemed to work out for Athens Christian, the place Williams was set to assume teaching and coaching duties next fall.
“Coach Mason of ACS was happy for me, and he actually told me he had second thoughts about leaving also, as he loves his boys just like I do mine,” Williams said.
Williams said he agonized over the future of Forest Park wrestling the moment he found out Helena would be relocating from the Atlanta area. He couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched what he called divine intervention unfold in his decision.
“My pastor always says that if you want to make God laugh, then tell him your plans,” Williams said with a chuckle. “That said, I am pumped and very excited to be able to stay at home with my South Metro family.”