LILBURN - When Dennis Stromie became head wrestling coach at Parkview High School in the mid-80s, the program had some previous success, but it wasn't even the top team in Gwinnett County or its own city.
That distinction belonged to Berkmar High School.
"When I first came here Berkmar was the power and there weren't many schools in the county," Stromie said. "They had done away with the county tournament because Berkmar won it every year."
Under Stromie it didn't take long for the power to shift.
His 1990 team was the first one other than Berkmar to win the county title when the tourney resumed in 1989.
Since then the Panthers have won 10 Gwinnett titles, the most by any school.
Parkview hasn't just enjoyed success under Stromie at the local level, but also at state. In his 22 years at the Lilburn school, the Panthers have finished in the top 10 19 times, including state titles in 2004 and 2006.
Now he'll try to duplicate that success at West Forsyth High School, which opens this fall. Stromie is leaving Parkview to become the athletic director and head wrestling coach for the Wolverines.
Stromie and his family still plan to live in Lilburn. His wife, Lori, works in the counseling office at Parkview and his daughter, Michelle, will be a junior this fall.
His duties as athletic director have already begun by him
getting things ready for next fall not only from an athletic standpoint, but opening a school in general.
"I'm finding a lot of things out I haven't had to go through before, starting from scratch," Stromie said.
He's already hired two assistant wrestling coaches - Winder-Barrow grad Adam Clack, who was a four-time state placer, and Gary Sylvestri, who has coached at several schools in Florida. Stromie's son, Steven, who will graduate from Georgia next year, could be added to the staff.
"I'm too busy right now to be reflective and sad," Stromie said. "Probably once I get out and start going over there every day I'll start to miss it and start thinking back about all the good times and the great people.
"That's the coolest part of it. Having the good kids that you become close to. The relationships with the other coaches, parents, that's what I'm going to miss. In 22 years, you get a lot of relationships built up."
In his two decades at Parkview, Stromie has compiled a 398-45-2 coaching record. He's coached 19 different state champions and has had at least one state champion 19 of his 22 years.
His teams finished in the top 10 19 times, in the top five 15 different years and for the last 21 seasons have had a winning dual meet record. In 2004 and 2006 Parkview swept the dual and traditional state titles, so he has plenty of fond memories with the Panthers, but two stand out.
The first time the Panthers won the team title in 2004 was one, and the other was coaching a four-time state champion in Scott Hage.
"Obviously, they're all great memories," Stromie said. "You've got your heartbreaks, too. I remember the heartbreaks as much as the great victories and celebrations. The first time you do things is special and the first time we won the team championship and more special because my kid is on the team.
"Doing what probably very few people ever get a chance to do, coach a four-time state champion. That was Scott Hage. Those two jump at me. A lot of great kids that have achieved a lot of great things."
In his 24 years as a wrestling coach, which started with two years at Redan as an assistant under legendary coach Brian Hage, Stromie has had at least a dozen former wrestlers go on to become coaches.
Most notably in that group is Tom Beuglas, who Stromie coached at Redan and has coached with him at Parkview.
Beuglas will take over as Parkview's head wrestling coach in the fall.
Stromie has enjoyed so much success at Parkview that it will be quite a transition going from state power to a very young team that will take its lumps its first year at West Forsyth, which will compete in Class AAA in 2007-08. The team will be mostly ninth- and 10th-graders drawn from other Forsyth County schools with little or no varsity experience.
"It will be a reality check I'm sure," Stromie said. "You've just got to be realistic in your expectations. I'm looking forward to it. I know it's going to be a lot of work, but if it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be worth doing."