If anyone knows about winning on the wrestling mat, it’s Forrest Garner. Both a four-time state and national-champion wrestler at Jefferson and an assistant coach for three-straight state championship seasons at Commerce, Garner will now seek success as head coach as he takes over East Jackson’s program.

“I’m very excited,” said Garner, who went 226-3 as a high school wrestler and was an eight-time All-American. “This is a dream that I’ve had ever since I started coaching was to start my own program and have a successful one. I was able to be a part of the Jefferson one as a wrestler. I was able to help with Commerce as a coach. But this one will be mine. So I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get started.”

When asked about being part of those championship programs at Jefferson and Commerce, Garner said he hopes to instill that same mindset at East Jackson.

“That’s the hardest part about it is building that mindset of getting them to understand that they can be great at wrestling, and they can be just as good as Jefferson, Commerce or any other school around here,” he said.

While this is Garner’s first head coaching job, he has nine seasons of coaching experience on his résumé.

Garner, who wrestled collegiately at Anderson College for two years, served as the varsity assistant at Commerce from 2008-2010, before stepping down to the middle school level, where he guided that team to dual and traditional state titles in 2012. He returned to the Commerce varsity coaching staff in 2013, helping the Tigers’ last three squads win state championships in both dual and traditional competition.

Garner’s first task is bolstering the Eagles’ participation numbers, which have dwindled in recent years.

“Get as many bodies in the room as I can,” Garner said. “That’s my first thing to do.”

Garner will also hold a June 13-15 youth camp, which he hopes will bolster his efforts to start a USA youth wrestling program for East Jackson.

In the meantime, he aims to get as many high school wrestlers as possible working on fundamentals.

East Jackson athletic director Shawn Lindsay, when addressing parents at a meet and greet for Garner Thursday, spoke of changing the culture of the Eagle wrestling program and believes this hire is the first step in that process.

“We feel more than confident that we found the right guy for that,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay added that with the numbers the wrestling program has “it’s almost like we’re opening the school again.”

“I don’t think coach Garner would have it any other way,” Lindsay said. “That means he gets to build it exactly the way he wants it, and we’re excited about that. We expect some good things.”

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