Stone Mountain coach inducted into hall of fame

Jerome Tillery returned to DeKalb County in 1988 with the purpose of giving back to the wrestling community, and 33 years later—on April 22—he was inducted to the Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Tillery—a 1983 Towers High School graduate and currently the wrestling coach at Stone Mountain High School—said he was surprised when he opened a letter earlier this year which informed him of the honor.

“The selection was very surprising,” said Tillery. “It is rare to be chosen and I was very excited to be selected.”

Tillery became the third coach from DeKalb County to earn the honor, following the late WilliamBillVenable (Walker/Tucker high schools) and Ed Winterstein (Dunwoody/Chamblee high schools).

DeKalb’s newest addition to the wrestling hall of fame coached state champions Dejay McNeal (113) and Terrence Randle (182) in 2018 at McNair High School and McNeal (120) again along with Antonio Mills (138) at Stone Mountain High School in 2019. Stone Mountain’s Amantee Mills also became a two-time state champion under the direction of Tillery in 2020 (106) and 2021 (126).

Tillery has been part of 12 region championship teams and six DeKalb County championships during his coaching career.

The coaching veteran is part of a family tradition in DeKalb County wrestling dating back to his oldest brother Willie Tillery at Gordon High School in 1972. Tillery’s other three brothers (Anthony, Ricky, and Ramone) were also former DeKalb County wrestlers. Ramone currently coaches at McNair High School.

Tillery’s son Jerun Tillery was also a DeKalb wrestler and passed away due to a car accident more than 12 years ago. DeKalb honored him by annually giving away the Jerun Tillery Memorial Award for Best Match of the DeKalb County Championships to two wrestlers.

Tillery has also become a driving force in starting middle school wrestling programs in DeKalb.

“I’m very [glad] got we got the middle schools going as it will help us get kids started earlier instead of waiting until they get to high school,” said Tillery. “It should really help in the improved development of DeKalb County wrestling programs.”

Jerome Tillery

Bud Hannibal, the current president of the Georgia Wrestling Association and a former wrestling referee, nominated Tillery for the honor.

“I’ve known Bud from when he was a referee back in 1988 when I was a community coach at Towers,” said Tillery. “He’s kept up with me all those years. I’m honored he nominated me.”

Tillery was a GHSA Class 3A state runner-up (105) at Towers and went on to wrestle two seasons at Pembroke State University in North Carolina.

After coaching at his alma mater for two years, Tillery directed and coached the Stone Mountain Youth Wrestling Program. He then formed his own Tillery DeKalb Youth Wrestling program, which Tillery directed for five years while also serving as a coach for the Georgia USA National Team.

Tillery returned to high school coaching in 1997-98 with stints at Southwest DeKalb, McNair (twice), Redan (twice), and Stephenson high schools before taking the lead at Stone Mountain in 2018.

Tillery also emphasizes academics for his athletes. One of the requirements for Tillery’s team is to make A’s and B’s if a wrestler wants to be a team captain.

“Getting an education is very important for the athletes,” said Tillery. “Whatever they want to do in life, it can help them prepare … If they want to be able to return and coach, they have to complete their education. I’m very adamant about keeping their grades up. It is amazing how many will strive to get the grades to have the opportunity to be team captain.

“Kids want to be part of something special as a team and an individual. Wrestling can teach life lessons about falling and getting back up again. If you can be successful on the mat, you can do anything you want in life.”

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