Jay Darrow, pictured in the foreground, stands next to his dad George and his son Grant during a youth wrestling tournament in Custer several years ago.
By Garland Wright
EDGEMONT – Jay Darrow is stepping back from coaching youth sports after dedicating 32 years to serving the local community in the realm of youth athletics. Over the past three decades, Jay has actively coached and officiated various youth sports, including wrestling, baseball, and fast-pitch softball. His commitment to youth sports has brought fulfillment to his life and has also been a vital means of support for his family. Additionally, it has led to numerous serendipitous blessings that have enriched his life over the years.
In 1988, Darrow graduated from Edgemont High School and subsequently enlisted in the Air Force. After an assignment away from home, he was stationed at Ellsworth Base. At the age of 22, Jay learned of the need for a wrestling coach in Hermosa.
In fact, Jim and Rose Anderson approached Darrow to assist in coaching their three boys and to help start up a team in Hermosa. Jay responded to the request by commuting from Ellsworth to Hermosa, marking his initial venture into coaching. During this period, Paul Tierney also played a crucial role in developing the wrestling program, involving his own sons in the process.
In his inaugural year as a coach in 1991, Jay Darrow was invited to accompany the South Dakota Team to the Nationals in Amarillo, Texas. As an Air Force serviceman, Jay attended the event, albeit with some stress, given that he had a young family and pending orders to relocate to Kansas City, Oklahoma, around the same timeframe.
Being young, in the military, and with a growing family, Jay Darrow felt the pressure of finding a new home for the impending relocation. Fate intervened once again when, during the National Tournament in Amarillo, Texas, he struck up a conversation with a family from Oklahoma.
In the course of the discussion, Jay mentioned his search for a home in Kansas City for his young family. Remarkably, the very family he was conversing with happened to have a property available for rent and expressed a need for private coaching sessions for their sons, who were wrestlers. Jay Darrow accepted their offer, marking the beginning of his next chapter in youth sports.
While in Kansas City, Darrow witnessed wrestling at a level he had not experienced before, even during his college wrestling days. Darrow exclaimed, “I transitioned from the small town of Edgemont to the metropolis of Kansas City.”
Darrow noted that the competition was incredibly fierce, making securing a spot on the team more challenging than winning a meet on Saturdays. The young athletes in that region engaged in intense, almost street-fighter-like battles during every practice to earn their position on the team.
After a few years, Darrow welcomed two boys, Rodney and Grant Darrow, into the world, and like their father, they developed a passion for sports. As Rodney reached the age of five, Jay began coaching AAU Wrestling. Additionally, Jay Darrow ventured into officiating wrestling to supplement his income. This expanded to include officiating other sports, such as baseball and fast-pitch softball.
Darrow initiated his officiating journey with Little League baseball, gradually progressing to officiate college-level games. After spending several years in Oklahoma, Darrow relocated to Newcastle. In Newcastle, his sons engaged in activities ranging from AAU wrestling to t-ball and baseball. While continuing to officiate “to keep food on the table,” Darrow remained dedicated to coaching baseball for his sons.
Darrow seized the opportunity to coach a substantial wrestling team, collaborating with a group of seven coaches, all of whom boasted extensive wrestling backgrounds—whether as college wrestlers, state champions, or coaches with high-level wrestling experience. Jay Darrow contributed to this team from 2007 to 2012.
In 2012, Jay Darrow secured a position at the VA in Hot Springs and subsequently returned to his hometown of Edgemont. During this period, he collaborated with Jeff Grill to enhance the wrestling skills of Jeff’s talented sons. Darrow organized regular trips for Chance and Cade Grill to Newcastle, providing them valuable wrestling experience. Before leaving Oklahoma, he received recognition from the State coaches and was chosen to officiate the All-State baseball game.
Recognizing the necessity for a Middle School Edgemont Team, Jeff Grill and Jay Darrow advocated for establishing a team in 2012 by petitioning the local Edgemont school board. Initially, Jeff Grill assumed the head coach position, with Jay Darrow serving as the assistant coach for several years. As Grill’s sons progressed to high school wrestling, Jeff’s coaching focus naturally shifted to align with his boys’ endeavors. Subsequently, Jay Darrow ascended to the role of Head Coach for the Edgemont Middle School team and has continued in that capacity for several years.
Also, upon returning to Edgemont, Darrow experienced a renewed passion, or as he puts it, got the “bug” again for officiating. He dedicated several years to officiating American Legion baseball games for Post 22 and Post 320 in Rapid City.
Reflecting on cherished moments from his youth sports involvement, Jay Darrow fondly recalls a highlight from his son Grant’s seventh-grade year. Grant participated in the Lakota Nation Invitational wrestling meet, delivering an outstanding performance. He emerged victorious in all his divisions, earning the opportunity to compete in the championship round against an eighth grader.
Darrow reminisces about the championship round, noting that it took place on an elevated mat, with television and radio coverage. The event even featured the announcer from the Pro Rodeo, who provided live commentary. Darrow vividly recalls the moment when his son’s name echoed through the loudspeakers in the main arena of the Rushmore Civic Center as they entered the match.
“I was bursting with pride; I felt like I was about to explode,” describes Darrow. Despite securing second place in the tournament, Grant delivered an outstanding performance, showcasing a level of competition that many never have the opportunity to experience.
When Darrow articulates his coaching philosophy, he characterizes himself as a “glass half full coach.” He elaborates by acknowledging that he has witnessed coaches displaying anger and hostility during practice and coaches who adopt a gentler and more patient approach. While both coaching styles may yield results, Darrow emphasizes his preference for the latter, recognizing that it not only achieves success but also preserves the athlete’s dignity.
It comes as no surprise that Jay ventured into coaching youth sports, considering his father, George Darrow, has dedicated the past 45 years to coaching youth sports. In addition, his brother, Gary Darrow, currently holds the position of Edgemont High School Boys Head Basketball coach and serves as the School Board president. Further contributing to the family’s sports legacy, Jay’s nephew, Kaleb Darrow, serves as the Assistant Edgemont High School Boys Basketball Coach.
Even Jay’s son, Grant Darrow, delved into sports by studying and becoming a Basketball Official for his Senior Project, now officiating games in Rapid City and at Ellsworth Airforce Base. The Darrow family’s commitment to serving their communities through sports is ingrained and evident across generations.
According to Darrow, wrestlers typically won’t pursue wrestling as a long-term career unless they go to another school, particularly in Edgemont. In this context, wrestling serves as a steppingstone, imparting life lessons and preparing athletes to participate in other sports. Darrow endeavors to convey valuable messages and consistently show up prepared to work, emphasizing the importance of daily commitment and effort.
In wrestling, assigning blame to others is not an option. Wrestlers must grapple with this reality, which can be a humbling experience. Drawing from his years of experience, Jay Darrow emphasizes the significance of “celebrating every victory with every athlete.”