I will not pretend that I knew who Dennis Bartley was prior to reading of his passing on a couple of different Facebook accounts I’ve seen in the last couple of days.
Like so many of us who love this sport, I came to Jacksonville from somewhere else. When I started this website, I knew almost nothing about the state of high school wrestling in this area. For those of us who pretended to think we knew some nationwide things about the sport, Florida wrestling meant Brandon. I hadn’t even heard of Clay, let alone any other team, until a former friend and I went to the Northeast Florida Scottish Games at the Fairgrounds a few months after my arrival here, and a full year (plus) before the idea for this website began.
So those of us who move in here, from somewhere else — as so many folks in our community do, and so many more that aren’t part of our community — we don’t always fully realize how much history happened before we got here.
But it is just as clear to us north Florida newbies as it is to lifelong Sunshine Staters that we all are where we are because we stand upon the shoulders of giants who came before us. Each of us has our own giants upon which we rest, and I hope you’ll think about them some today, as we’re just hours away from the Memorial Day weekend, in which we (or at least we ought) to honor those who came before us and served our country.
Clearly, for many Sandalwood HS alumni and former staffers (particularly those who’ve been part of the Saints’ athletic department), Dennis Bartley is just such a giant. There are multiple programs, right here in the city of Jacksonville, that have benefited from his influence — the Saints’ program itself after he turned over head coaching duties, the Mandarin team of the early 2010s, and other programs right now, Robert E. Lee and Fletcher being two. And that’s just what I know.
A man like Dennis Bartley cuts a large figure in young people’s lives. Those young people take what they learn and pass it on, wherever they go, whether it’s coaching, or business or the military. They plant seeds in the next generation, in honor of the seeds Bartley planted in them.
In a way, this website is indebted to Bartley. One of his colleagues made the initial reach-out to us back in January 2013, and it’s very likely that without that reach-out this site — and whatever enjoyment and interest it’s given you — would not exist.
It’s almost a meme now that we live in a time of uncertainty. We don’t know when the real “off-season” will actually begin here in Florida, or anywhere else, for that matter. But, because of the work that people that Dennis Bartley has done, and his next generations wait to keep doing, wrestling will endure.
(h/t to Ricky Hicks Sr., Larry Yudin and Daniel Holmes for the photos they have posted on social media, which are used in gratitude here).