Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman Lanier head wrestling coach Nick Brenner.
Nick Brenner, 31, is in his third year as head wrestling coach at Lanier where he also teaches health, physical education and special education.
Brenner is a 2000 graduate of Canfield High School in Ohio and wrestled at Kent State. He received his bachelor's degree in 2007.
Brenner and his wife Lindsay, who teaches at Lanier Middle School, have a son Jackson, who turns 2 this month.
In this latest installment of "Getting To Know ... ," Brenner talks to staff writer Brandon Brigman about building the Lanier wrestling program from scratch, how he met his wife and what took so long to gradate from college.
BB: You're in your third year of building the Lanier wrestling program from scratch. Do you like where the program is headed?
NB: I love the progress we've made. Every year has been better than the year before, including this year. We took fourth place at the area duals, which was a big step for us. When we first started out, we had kids coming in asking where the ropes were. We've come a long way. We're filling up a lineup, we're competitive in our region, so I'm happy.
BB: What's been the biggest challenge starting the program?
NB: Getting our numbers up. I think that was the biggest challenge. This was the first year we finally got our numbers up to where we had some good competition in the room. In the past we were ending the season with 20 guys. We still have about 30 guys in the room right now as we come close to the end. That's been a big step for us. Part of that has been getting the youth program running. I saw some benefit from that this year. I'd say the biggest thing is the marketing, getting our numbers up has been a challenge.
BB: Did you always want to be a head wrestling coach?
NB: Yeah, absolutely. That was kind of my angle starting out. It happened quicker than I anticipated when North Gwinnett split and this school opened up. I figured it was time, might as well jump on it.
BB: What brought you from Ohio to Georgia?
NB: It was actually before I even graduated from Kent, my wife was my girlfriend at the time. We decided to come down, she had a relative and I had a friend (former Central wrestling coach) Matt Brickley, he's from the same hometown as me, he had moved down here. He told me there were jobs like crazy down here, so that was when Gwinnett was hiring. We came down here for one of those job fairs and they hired me and my girlfriend at the time right there on the spot. We kind of decided that's where we are going. We got married and moved down.
BB: What do you miss about Ohio?
NB: Not much (laughs). Just my family. Starting a family and getting things going, it's tough not having a family around. I sure as heck don't miss the weather that's for sure. Everybody makes fun of me for wearing shorts all winter long, but it's still 20-30 degrees colder up there every day. I don't miss much.
BB: What's your fondest wrestling moment?
NB: I would say, I think wrestling at Senior Nationals in high school. That was kind of a turning point for me. I wasn't sure if I was going to wrestle in college or not. I had a good Senior Nationals tournament and that's what got me into the D-I program at Kent. That was a big turning point for me. Coaching and competing is such a huge difference for me. I feel the coaching aspect is so rewarding. I learned a lot competing and training in it with wrestling it made me what I am. But now I'm reaping the benefits on the coaching side of developing young wrestlers and developing young men. It's very rewarding.
BB: What was it like wrestling at Kent State?
NB: It was a big transition time when I was there. I was actually on the committee that helped pick the new head coach, which was one of the assistants at the time. They kind of ran out the old coach and brought in Jim Andrassy. He's turned the program around. The last few years I was there the program started moving in the right direction and now we're having All-Americans and things like that. It's cool to stay I was a part of that transition, but we were, when I was there, we were not at the level they are at now. It was kind of a turning point. It's cool now to look back and say you're part of a program that's now successful.
BB: What's the biggest difference from high school to college wrestling?
NB: There's no more easy matches. Every single person in the room is going to push you. You go from beating up on everybody to everyone in the wrestling room is good. Everybody is really talented.
BB: How did you meet your wife?
NB: We met in college. It was actually our last year there. We were from bordering hometowns. Went to the same college for five years and never met until I think that last semester we were there. We actually got paired in the same group to go observe a school in one of our education classes.BB: I guess since you didn't have Cauliflower ear she was attracted to you?
NB: (Laughs) Yeah, I had my ears drained quite regularly, so I didn't have the Cauliflower ear problem.
BB: You finished wrestling in 2005, but didn't graduate until 2007? Were you having too much college fun?
NB: No, it wasn't so much that. It was getting placed for student teaching. And then I was going back and fourth on getting a second major in health. But then I figured out I was moving to Georgia and you only have to have a degree in one education field and when you get down here you can take the GACE test, so once I figured that out I did my student teaching. I was working a lot. When wrestling ended, I kind of put myself through school. I was working a lot at night and working for a moving company. After wrestling ended, my class load slowed way down. I think when I graduated I had double the amount of credits I needed.
BB: Your son's birthday is coming up soon. Any big plans for birthday No. 2?
NB: Unfortunately, we had it all planned out. It was a very planned pregnancy, but it was a week or two off and he was born on the state wrestling weekend. For the rest of his life, and I feel bad for him, he's going to have his birthday on the same weekend as the state championships in Georgia. My wife is actually taking him up to Ohio for the weekend for a birthday party. I'm sure we'll have cake and ice cream for him when they get back.
BB: What do you like to do when it's not wrestling season?
NB: Outside of wrestling, the last two years I've coached soccer. I coached boys varsity soccer. This year I made the switch over to freshman football, which I never played football before. That's been a learning experience for me. Outside of teaching and coaching, I'm big into boating and wake boarding. My family was big into boating. When I moved down here, I actually bought my family's boat from my dad and brought it down here, so we do a lot of wake boarding.
BB: How long to do you plan to be at Lanier?
NB: We are very invested in this cluster. I'll be here as long as they'll have me. I love the school, I love the atmosphere. We have a great administration that's very supportive of all our sports. I like being in Gwinnett County where the competition is the best around and also being one of the small schools, it's our goal to compete with the AAAAAA schools in this area. Being the only AAAA school in Gwinnett, it's a big challenge for us at the same time it's a blessing. The teams that are real close to us are real good and when we get into region tournament it pays off.