SAN DIEGO -- Wayne Branstetter will coach his final wrestling meet in San Diego this weekend when he leads Poway into the Masters Tournament. One of the most decorated coaches in California history, Branstetter arrived in Poway in 1978 for what he considered a temporary job. Forty years, and numerous state champions later, he's decided to retire.
At the young age of 27-years-old, Branstetter began building a strong wrestling tradition at Poway High School.
"You're always looking forward to the next young boy that comes in to train him up to win and just before you know it, 40 years went by," said Branstetter.
Branstetter had other coaching offers over the years but chose to stay with Poway because of the teaching platform wrestling presented him.
"We coined a phrase a long time ago, those who stay will be champions and it has nothing to do with a boy winning a state title," said Branstetter. "It has everything to do with him becoming a good man."
In his 40-year-career at Poway, Branstetter has led the Titans to four state titles and 37 consecutive CIF championships but he says it's not the awards or the accolades that he finds most satisfying.
"We're not just about winning and getting your son a scholarship," he said. "It's the whole character thing is very important to me. You can stand on a podium and win a gold medal and you can still be a thug."
Through discipline, commitment and a lot of patience, Branstetter says shaping young boys into good men of character is the one trophy that matters in his crowded collection. Now, at 67-years-old and on the verge of retirement, Branstetter reflects on a career he never envisioned, acknowledging that he'll fondly miss being a coach.
"I think what I'll miss the most is just the relationship, that's the biggest thing," said Branstetter. "The personalities of those boys cause they're all unique, all have their own story and I get to help them write it and be part of it."
Branstetter says he will spend retirement enjoying time with his six grand children. The avid fisherman also plans to travel and spend more time outdoors but before he does any of that, the culmination of a long and decorated career will come in April when more than 500 friends, colleagues and former wrestlers are set to honor him.
"I've always dreamed of that," said Branstetter. "Where are they now and seeing them and I want to thank them. I just want to raise my glass and say thanks for blessing my life."
Taking over in Branstetter's place will be John Meyers who's been an assistant coach with Poway for 15 years.