Gray’s Creek wrestlers think their assistant coach really rocks

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

When Earl Horan found himself unexpectedly thrust into the role of head wrestling coach at Gray’s Creek High School at the start of the current season, he was alone on the sidelines and in the wrestling room at school with no one to serve as his assistant.

That’s when he immediately turned to his son Earl “Early Bird” Horan IV to take on the position, with a slight change in the job title.

“I told him he was the assistant coach in charge of morale and the music in the wrestling room,’’ the elder Horan said. Early Bird brought experience to the position after wrestling three years at Gray’s Creek while attending school there as a special needs student.

An ecstatic Early Bird accepted his new job, and his father said that thus far in the season, which is coming to a close this week, he’s performed the job admirably.

“He’ll speak up during practice sometimes and tell the guys to work harder,’’ Horan said. “He sits on the side of the room, plays the music and cheers the guys on.’’

The Gray’s Creek wrestlers apparently feel as much appreciation for the younger Horan’s efforts as he does for theirs.

Coach Horan said not long ago, one of his wrestlers, senior Robert Ison, asked if the team could purchase a special shirt for Early Bird. Not knowing exactly what they had planned, Horan gave his approval.

One day at practice, they showed up with the shirt and held a ceremony to present it to Early Bird.

It featured the words assistant coach in large letters on the front, with a smaller caption below that read, “like the head coach, only the coolest guy in the room.’’

Early Bird’s name is written on the back of the shirt.

“He was so excited,’’ Ison said of the moment when they gave Early Bird the shirt. “He was jumping around. As soon as we gave it to him, he put it on and went to get a team photo before practice.’’

Ison said Early Bird is should never be mistaken for a glorified mascot for the wrestling team who treats them to his favorite classic rock selections during practice. Ison said what Early Bird does for the team plays a role in its performance.

“He’s always there, always playing music,’’ Ison said. “We’re not going to be as efficient if we don’t have him as a hype man and a DJ.

“He’s always talking, giving us pointers, giving us things he wants us to work on.’’

Coach Horan said the gift of the shirt was totally the idea of the team and he had nothing to do with the team giving it to Early Bird. “What a great group of kids,’’ he said. “They love Early Bird ,and he truly loves them back.’’