Terry Downs and family give Clawson wrestling its backbone

By: Alex Tekip | Royal Oak Review | Published January 25, 2016


CLAWSON — All of Brendan Downs’ uncles wrestled for Clawson High.

But none have had their picture on the wall in the hallways that run from the school’s main entrance to its gymnasium.

Brendan Downs is hoping to be the first in his family to have his accomplishments framed.

“I’m trying to get my picture on the wall by going to states,” said Brendan Downs. “None of my uncles got their picture on the wall. Hopefully, I’m trying to be the first one to get my picture on the wall.”

Like his uncles ahead of him, Brendan was coached by Terry Downs, who happens to be his father.

Terry Downs, a resident of Clawson, has been a coach in Clawson’s wrestling program since the late 1980s. He took a break when his daughter was born in the 1990s, which was when Clawson lost its high school wrestling program due to lack of interest. Following  a stint as a youth wrestling coach in Hazel Park, Downs returned to Clawson with the notion of bringing the program back.

“I found out that Clawson lost the program, and I got to thinking ‘What am I gonna do with my kid when he needs to go to high school?’ So that’s when I went to the athletic department — at the time, the athletic director was Bob Herm — and asked if we can get a program … going again,” said Terry Downs. “He agreed upon it. They shut me down one day, and then the next morning, I woke up and we’re back going again, so it was a lot of ups and downs because the numbers were down.”

Terry Downs said the new Clawson wrestling program had between seven and 10 wrestlers in its first year in 2007. He said that today, there are 25 wrestlers participating at the varsity level and 20 more involved in Clawson Youth Wrestling, which serves as a pipeline for the high school team.

“(It was) kinda slow at first, but it just grew and grew and grew,” Terry Downs said.

Clawson now hosts its own tournament, thanks to the efforts of former coach Keil Jorgenson, who now coaches in the Imlay City school district, and his father. The Trojan Team Tournament, in its sixth year, was held on Jan. 23. Clawson placed fourth out of ten teams.

Brendan Downs, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player in the lightweight class, said the Trojan Team Tournament is an opportunity to showcase the Clawson wrestling program and its wrestlers, himself included.

“The people in the city, they get to see me wrestle,” he said. “Wrestling’s not a very popular sport, so they see me wrestle and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s actually good!’”

Brendan Downs said planning the Trojan Team Tournament is both a stressful and rewarding experience for his family. He said he helped set up the mats the night before the tournament. He said his mom helps organize the event. His dad pulls double-duty as coach and organizer.

“It doesn’t always run smoothly,” he said. “There’s a lot of bumpy parts, but at the end of the day, we all come together and, like, we all love this sport, so it all just works out in the end.”

Terry Downs said wrestling is a lot more than just sitting in the corner and coaching. Amidst the chaos of the Clawson team tournament, he told of his accomplishments so far: helping to rebuild a high school and pipeline program; purchasing new equipment; and giving families who are passionate about wrestling, much like his own, a home.

“I love the sport that much,” he said.