Neither Spring Hill nor Kortney Brus intended to make history.
The two may do so, however, as Brus is set to take the reins of the Raider wrestling program – achieving a rare position as a woman coaching a Tennessee high school boys wrestling team.
Previously, Angela Haley coached both boys and girls wrestling at Northeast High School in Clarksville.
Mark Reeves, executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association and former wrestling coach at Springfield, recently said he was unaware of any other current or former high school wrestling coaches that were women.
“It’s huge,” Brus said. “I didn’t think about it going into all of this, but I guess I feel like a trailblazer a little bit. For girls, I know the sport is one of the leading growing sports for girls right now in the country. I think it’s pretty cool that I can show them that they can be more than just athletes. They’re capable of coaching boys just as much as they’re capable of wrestling them if they wanted to.”
Brus succeeds Beau Moss, who established the Spring Hill program in 2017. Moss stepped down this summer for family reasons and will coach cross country this fall at the school, reviving that program after a one-year hiatus.
“The kids respect her – her attention to detail, her note-taking on each of the kids, working with the kids, correcting their mistakes,” Moss said regarding his former assistant. “She’s very organized and motivated, one of those that will put in the time. No one’s going to outwork her.
“She’s a disciplinarian. Both her father and uncle were (high school) wrestling coaches. She learned a lot from them. With the guys she’s got and the time she’ll put in, they’ll be fine.”
Prior to joining Moss and the Raiders, Brus worked with the local youth wrestling program. It was there that she began to consider taking her talents to an older group of athletes.
“My sons were wrestling. My husband (Ashton Darnell) actually took them to a practice and the coach was looking for parents to help and my husband said ‘don’t ask me; ask my wife',” she recalled. “It all just snowballed from there.”
As a Maryland high schooler, Brus was unable to get on the mat and compete – “It was still a little taboo for girls to wrestle” – but absorbed all she could from her manager position.
“I sat underneath my coaches and watched everything and listened to everything, and I may or may not have almost gotten kicked out of one or two matches because I didn’t agree with the ref,” she said.
“If they needed something extra I might get thrown into practice every once in a while, but mainly I just managed the team and kept score and just learned everything I could about the sport.”
Years later, that focus is paying off. As an assistant last season, Brus helped lead a group of four Spring HIll wrestlers – Cayden Buchanan, Ethan Glass, Vanessa Henkel and Payton Miller – into state tournament competition.
“Once I got into wrestling (again) and remembered how much I loved it, how much of a passion it was, when I really got the chance to coach kids at a higher level and I saw how well they responded to me,” Brus said. “I had one kid actually tell me, ‘I thought you were just one of those dumb moms, but you actually know this stuff’.
“The boys responded to me. They respect me, they’re listening to me. I’m giving the girls a voice and more confidence. I feel like this is what I’m meant to be, this is something I’m meant to do.”
Easing her transition will be a staff that worked alongside her a year ago – assistants Chris Petersen, Jared Levin, Joel Blanton and Tomm Beaudry.
“I know they’re going to help me on the technical level of things,” Brus said. “Having so much support, knowing my athletes are excited, my assistant coaches are excited, I feel like it’s going to be a transition but I’m confident that it’s not going to be too bad.
“I’m really excited. I know there’s going to be a lot of trial and error, it’s going to take the guys some getting used to me as far as other coaches, but we’re going to make it happen.”