The Hoover High School Wrestling Program has been one of the best in Alabama as well as the southeast U.S. for many years. There have been state titles in 1972, 2003, 2005, 2006 & 2010 while being runner-up in 1973, 1987, 1988, 1993, 2002, 2009 & 2011 and many state individual champions are included. The Bucs have been led by many outstanding head coaches & assistants.
The early efforts of Coach Joe Perkins at Berry High School during his tenure from 1966-1979 established the program on solid successful ground. He came to Berry as a line coach for the football team and among his many duties was working with the wrestling team at a time when the 3 top sports in the state were baseball, basketball & football. The success of the Bucs and a few other top programs helped put high school wrestling programs on a more respected level.
Joe Perkins was born on December 30, 1937 in Jasper, Alabama but moved to Columbus, Mississippi for awhile before moving to Winfield, Alabama. There he met Bob Finley when they were about 10 years old and established a life-time friendship. However, Finley & his family moved to Fayette, Alabama between their 6th & 7th grade years but a year later Perkins & his his family moved to Fayette as well and their relationship continued.
The two buddies were two of five 8th graders who made the Fayette County High School varsity football team in 1951 playing for Coach J.B. McClendon. Perkins played on the line & Finley played quarterback through their high school career. After their graduation in 1956, Finley went to Marion Institute in Alabama and later transferred to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Perkins went to a junior college in Mississippi, spent time in the army awhile and eventually attended Auburn University where he graduated in 1963.
After teaching & coaching at Baker Jr. High for a year and Hamilton High for a year, Perkins came to Berry High School in Hoover in 1966 reuniting with his old friend Bob Finley as well as an old friend from Winfield, Gerald Gann. The 3 men were assistants under head coach & A.D. Wayne Sims. Eventually Finley became head football coach & A.D. in 1968.
Berry had already established a wrestling team before Perkins arrived. Joe Lehman and Mike Kolen both won state individual titles in 1965. Kolen later went on to Auburn becoming an All-SEC linebacker & after played several years with the Miami Dolphins in pro football. The 1965 team placed 3rd in the state tournament.
During the late 1960’s, the Bucs finished 4th in the state in 1968 while Eddie Rew was an individual state champ in both 1967 & 1968. The program was gaining strength yearly. In 1972, the Bucs won the team state title while having individual champs in Jim Rew, Eric Sutton & Garnett Sutton. In 1973, they placed 2nd team wise with individual champs in Alan Barksdale, Rusty Bullard & Dennis Wildsmith.
Although the Bucs didn’t place as high in the following years of 1974 & 1975, they did have an individual state heavyweight in Lief Ericson both years while Tom Powers & Keith Barnard were also individual champs in 1975. Ericson went on to Alabama becoming an SEC heavyweight champion. There was a 6th place finish in 1977, 4th place in 1978 & a 6th place in 1979. Tim Sexton & Jay Zito were individual champs in 1978.
It’s not so now but there was a time years ago when the SEC sanctioned wrestling as one of sports but discontinued it. It’s a shame because there are several top universities across the nation with great wrestling programs. Alabama & Auburn were once top solid programs and several Bucs were part of them. Those who went to Auburn were Joe Lehman, Eddie Rew, Tom Powers & John Moore while those went to Alabama were Cliff Wildsmith, Richard Rew, Jim Rew, Dennis Wildsmith & Lief Ericson. Many other Bucs went to other fine programs.
Coach Perkins decided to get out of coaching in 1979 and become an assistant principal at Berry serving until 1982. Duke Chimento took over the program and it didn’t miss a beat continuing the Buc success through the 1980’s into the 1990’s. Berry became Hoover High in 1994 and eventually other great head coaches like Scott Rohrer continued the success in their own way bringing more championships for the Bucs.
Yet the program owes a lot to Coach Joe Perkins for his solid leadership in the early days. Throughout his educational career, he also served in the U.S. Army from 1960-1997 retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. In later years, he helped part-time as a substitute teacher for the Hoover City School System.
There were a few philosophies he and Coach Bob Finley shared as a part of their success in working with young people.
* PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL.
* HAVE FAITH in your spiritual life as well as faith in those you work with.
* PLAN for all contingencies. Know the plan, question the plan & practice the plan.
* WORK- There is no substitution for work. Talent alone will not carry a person very far.
* EXPECTATIONS- Don’t be afraid to succeed. Aim high, then if you fall short, you are still ahead of the pack. You cannot win unless you expect to win. You cannot succeed unless you expect to succeed.
* EXECUTION- A poor plan well executed is as good as or better than a good plan poorly executed. Practice perfect execution and execute to win.
Coach Joe Perkins was a model example in working with young people whether it was coaching football or wrestling. He was certainly a legendary Buccaneer.