Ask former Cary wrestling head coach Jerry Winterton about his wins, and he’ll tell you the foundation was laid by his predecessor.
Ask him about his state championships and state champions, and he’ll tell you about the kids who put in hard work.
That’s just his nature.
So when it comes to the honor of being inducted into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, it’s very similar. Winterton and six other people were inducted during halftime of Saturday’s home football game at UNC-Chapel Hill .
Winterton was 621-16 in 29 years at Cary with 19 state championships and 13 runner-up finishes.
His says his upbringing played a role in his success.
“In my situation, I was just fortunate. I didn’t have any choice but to compete inside my family as a young man growing up,” Winterton said.
He said his siblings are all high-ranking in their fields – social work, IBM, Goodyear, USA raquetball, and another is a CEO.
“They’ve done much better in my fields than I’ve done. That comes from our parents who worked a small dairy farm up in New York. We were raised working hard.”
The key to being a successful coach, Winterton said, was paying attention to the details.
“The term I always use when talking about fellow rivals and the people that have stood out when I compete against their teams is that they were ‘wired correctly’ – or incorrectly, depending on how you look at it,” Winterton said. “They were wired to win, they didn’t overlook the details needed to get victories, and they make athletes better.”
He said his background as a wrestler helped lay the foundation for his program. He always started the season by having his best wrestlers help and coach the younger ones, which brought them together.
“It was kind of an advantage that I was not a prima donna all-star wrestler,” Winterton said. “I was humbled as a wrestler and I haven’t forgotten that feeling. I look at these kids, and I’ll have them in front of me and I’ll say to a Will Clark, a Kollin Wade or a Mark Mulligan and say, ‘Hey, remember when you looked just like this guy over here?’ And they will help the younger ones.”
Former NCHSAA president Charlie Adams said he would field questions about the Cary wrestling dynasty while traveling out of state. Winterton coached 42 state champions and won 28 conference titles. He has been the head coach or assistant coach for four Cary wrestlers who have finished in the top two of a national tournament.
“A lot of times (at the national tournaments) I just catch myself saying, ‘Jerry what are you doing here?’ ” Winterton said.
He points out that two of the best teams in Cary history were 20 years apart – 1987 and 2007 – and that the team won titles in 1997 and also, before he arrived, in 1977.
“It was very special for me in 2007. That team, we went up to New York and had a tournament from where I’m from,” he said. “All New York teams from four different sections were up there. That was a pretty big tournament up there. Not only did we win it, but we won by 99 or 99.5 points, which was flabbergasting. I felt like we were going to be one of the best three teams there, but had no idea we would do that.”
One of his personal highlights involves coaching his kids. His oldest son, Logan, won the 2004 state championship. Son, Ronnie, and daughter, Amber, also wrestled for him.
Winterton is a 1973 graduate of Brockport State in New York. He also coached four years at East Wake and was an assistant at N.C. State from 1975-77. He worked as an assistant football coach at Cary for 14 seasons and head tennis coach for four.
He has been honored previously by the North Carolina chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“It’s quite an honor of course, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.