If it was anywhere but Heritage, Ed Holland likely wouldn’t be coaching wrestling in East Tennessee.

Holland, who took over the Mountaineers’ wrestling program on Tuesday, leaned on his long-time relationship with outgoing coach Jerry Teaster when making the decision whether or not to be his successor.

It was a relationship that went back to his own high school playing days and persisted throughout the years.

“I’d always had a really good relationship with Jerry,” Holland told The Daily Times. “I actually wrestled against his son and wrestled for him in high school. I didn’t know if it was something I wanted to do, but I got to coach a few years at McDonogh School in Baltimore and when I came back I realized it was something that I wanted to do. When I heard the (Heritage) job was open, I was really excited about it.”

A 2011 graduate out of Pigeon Forge High School, Holland spent years competing against Teaster’s teams and then competing for him on a summer travel team before playing a year at the collegiate level at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

But it wasn’t until working as an assistant coach at the wrestling program at McDonogh School that Holland realized coaching was what he wanted to do.

“I knew in high school that I really loved the sport and that it was something I wanted to do,” Hollands said. “At McDonogh, I got to work around a bunch of guys that wrestled in college at programs like Penn State, Pitt and Navy. It was really after college that I really grew to love coaching.

“I loved the experience of playing in college and competing at that level, but when I got to coach and impact kids’ lives and give them the opportunities that I didn’t have, that’s what I loved.”

It was those attributes that led Teaster to give Holland a call about the opening, and it’s those same attributes that have him confident in the direction will take the program that he coached the last 11 years.

“Just the mindset that Ed has, you know, he’s all about getting the kid where he needs to be,” Teaster said. “If they’re willing to put in the work, he’ll definitely get them there. We couldn’t have found a better coach. I’m tickled to death to be a part of his life growing up and being able to hand this off to him is very special to me.”

Teaster decided to step down to focus on his Maryville-based hardscaping business, “Teaster’s Natural Creations,” which has taken off in the past year and required more of his team, but he plans to stick around the program he helped guide to 10 state tournament appearances and eight region titles as Holland’s assistant.

“It’s been very successful,” Teaster said. “We’ve grown tremendously over the years. We’ve been able to get into the right contacts. I was on the USA Board, I was a national team member coach. We had a lot of teams that traveled all over the country. All of them had some really good offers.

“Just the success for these kids and getting them to the next level and seeing where they’re at. We didn’t know much when we got started but we’ve been pretty successful since then.”

Because it was Teaster’s program, the opportunity to take over for his former coach and mentor was an opportunity too good to pass up for Holland.

“It’s awesome,” Holland said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be the head coach (at Heritage), honestly. Jerry came to me about it and if it was anywhere else, I probably wouldn’t do it. There’s a big legacy there he left behind and there’s opportunities for this program.”

Now Holland will look to build a legacy of his own off of the success Teaster left behind and looking to reach the threshold of the program’s first state championship. His sights are also set on more than winning titles.

“It’s always to win state titles,” Holland said. “That’s my thing. I like to win because it makes the sport more fun when you are winning. But the ultimate goal is to get kids to the next level because I know winning isn’t always everything. I want to get them to college and prepare them not just in wrestling but for life opportunities.

“That’s the thing about college, the experiences you learn in wrestling, the work ethic you learn will follow you in life.”

Follow @ByNoahTaylor on Twitter for more from sports reporter Noah Taylor.

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