Class of 2015
When someone mentions Athens High School wrestling, there is a good chance the name Daryle Qualls will come up. Qualls turned Athens wrestling program into a powerhouse in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Qualls served as the Golden Eagles head wrestling coach 18 of his 25 years at Athens. He coached six state championship teams, four runner-up teams, 31 individual state champions, five All-Americans and earned four national
“They had some interest, but it wasn’t very popular,” Qualls said about the state of Athens wrestling in the early 80s. “They were looking for a coach that could also help in football. So, that’s kind of how I got started.” Qualls was hired at Athens Middle School, where he coached football in addition to being the varsity wrestling coach.
“I had good support from the administration, from the football coaches,” saidQualls. “Atthetime,theywereinto(wrestling)tohelpwiththeirfootball techniques. I could recruit kids at the middle school and talk to them about the benefits of wrestling. It was just an overhaul of the whole program.” It didn’t take long for Qualls to turn the program around. After four years at the helm, Qualls led Athens to a runner-up finish at the state tournament.
“My second year (at Athens), we beat Hartselle for the first time ever and the school went crazy,” remembers Qualls. Kids started to come out. They got a lot of notoriety.” Athens won its first state championship in 1988 and went on to dominate high school wrestling in Alabama for the next decade. AHS won state wrestling titles in 1988, ‘91, ‘93, ‘94, ‘96 and ‘97, finishing runner-up four times.
“We hosted the state tournament about five times I think,” said Qualls. “That was a huge undertaking. It was packed in both gyms. They had to open the doors. The fire marshal was there. I was in charge of the whole thing, so I was running around and we actually won state that year on the first day.” The induction into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame isn’t the first time Qualls has been honored. Some of Qualls national awards include America’s Who’s Who of High School Wrestling Coaches in 1998, Wrestling USA Magazine state Man of
the Year in 1991 and 1993, and Coaches Care Award by Gatorade in 1994.
A Huntsville native, he was inducted into the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
More than wrestling Qualls influence on students during his 25-year career at AHS goes beyond wrestling and sports, according to longtime coach Randy White.
“He did a great job with some kids that were maybe not the easiest to coach,” said White. “In a lot of cases, he got their life turned around. He was one of the top wrestling coaches in the state if not the country.” Qualls served as Athens High School1s golf coach from 1991-2000 where he led the Golden Eagles to a state championship in 1995 and two runner-up finishes.
“I was fortunate to have some really good freshmen my first year,” said Qualls. “Their senior year, they won state. My last year, we were really young and lost the state by one stroke.” After retiring from Athens, Qualls returned to coach in 2009 at Scottsboro High School where he led the Wildcats to a state championship in 2012.
“When I came out of retirement and went to Scottsboro, it had nothing to do with Athens,” said Qualls. “There weren1t any hard feelings. It was a little weird (playing Athens). I still wanted to win is what it came down to.”