Wrestling runs deep: Flynn, Barnett among coaches lauded during unusual cross-state trek

Coach Don Flynn consoles Glenrock wrestler Dustin Simmons

Coach Don Flynn consoles Glenrock wrestler Dustin Simmons after a tough loss at this year’s state championship. Flynn was named the 2A Assistant Coach of the Year. (Joshua Clark photo/The Glenrock Independent)

Mike Lashley of the Wyoming Coaches Association and Glenrock Middle School Wrestling Coach Jeff Barnett

Mike Lashley of the Wyoming Coaches Association presents Glenrock Middle School Wrestling Coach Jeff Barnett with his Coach of the Year award at Douglas High School. (Joshua Clark photo/The Glenrock Independent)

Joshua Clark, joshua@glenrockind.com

With no Hall of Fame Banquet this year because of COVID-19,Wyoming Coaches Association Past President Mike Lashley and his wife Karla embarked on an almost 2,000 mile journey across Wyoming to personally present awards to each recipient, including two coaches in Glenrock.


They made it to Glenrock and Douglas on the last day of the trek (Thursday) to present Glenrock coaches Don Flynn and Jeff Barnett with their awards.


 “We had to cancel the banquet because of the coronavirus,” Lashley said.  “I’ve been Coach of the Year before and it’s a big deal to be selected by your peers, and I just didn’t feel good about these coaches not being honored at the banquet. When you receive that award in a ballroom full of your family and friends that’s a cool thing. For coaches who are only going to win this award once, I wanted it to be a little more special.


“I was just sitting at home one day, probably in between Zoom meetings, and I looked at my wife and asked ‘What if we drove around the state, and we hand delivered every one of these?’ She said ‘Yeah you’re right that’s a crazy idea,’ so I started to hand draw a map and looked at the award winners and put dots in their towns.”


After clearing it with the rest of the executive committee of the WCA, Lashley and his wife set out to 27 cities and towns across Wyoming, handing out a total of 54 individual awards. The reception they received in the different communities was the highlight of the trip, Lashley said.


“It has been a magnificent reception. Every community we have been to has welcomed us and been very appreciative. If it was around a meal time some of the places would send us on our way with a goodie bag or a packed lunch. We had a set of coaches bring us to a restaurant for lunch, we got certificates to grab an ice cream cone on the way out. When we were on the reservation we got to see some of their traditions. It has probably been more exciting for me than it has been for the coaches. It has been an incredible experience.”


Barnett is a Douglas resident and was a long-time coach for football, track and wrestling over the past three decades at both the middle and high school levels. When Glenrock Athletic Director Jim Downs called him, he decided he missed the chance to connect and teach kids the sport and decided to jump back in, and was named Coach of the Year in just his first year back.


“I wasn’t doing anything and I missed being around the kids and forming those relationships,” Barnett said. "(My favorite part) is developing those relationships and getting to know the kids. Watching them grow and get better every day was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.


“Winning the award was very humbling. There are a lot of good coaches in the state who are probably more deserving than me to win, so to be nominated and voted on by those guys . . . it’s very humbling and I’m proud to have won it.”


Flynn was also given his award for his contribution to Glenrock wrestling, but his impact stretches far beyond the little town.


He is the former president of the Wyoming chapter of USA Wrestling and has coached the sport in some capacity for 25 years.


“Don (Flynn) is always willing to help coach any kid,” Glenrock wrestling head coach Kjell Ellison said. “They don’t have to be a Glenrock Herder, he’s willing to help anybody out there. I’ve seen him step up and try to coach a kid if their coach wasn’t at the tournament. The kids appreciate him and give a big ol' thank you, and coaches will thank him for stepping in. He’s a staple not only in Glenrock wrestling, but in Wyoming wrestling. He loves the sport and he loves the kids.”


Flynn doesn’t do it for the awards, in fact he didn’t even know the award existed before Barnett notified him that he won it. Still, he is appreciative to have been recognized by his peers and be in a position to do what he loves.


“It was an honor,” Flynn said. “I would like to thank my family and especially my wife. She did a lot to keep things going at home all those years while I was running around the state living the dream.”


Glenrock Independent

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