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JohnMark Bentley will share his testimony with his audience during Praise Festival 2013. He will talk about how wrestling has helped shape who he is. Photo courtesy of Appalachian State University

Originally published: 2013-08-24 16:38:43
Last modified: 2013-08-26 10:07:39

ASU coach to speak at Praise Fest

by Sherrie Norris

The High Country's JohnMark Bentley, Avery County native and head wrestling coach at Appalachian State University, will join nationally known Christian entertainers and speakers onstage during the High Country Praise Festival on Sept. 1, at the Holmes Convocation Center in Boone.

Known for his unashamed walk of faith, Bentley said he is honored and humbled to have been asked to speak at the event, allowing him to share his testimony. "And thankful that God has blessed me so much more than I deserve," he said.
Held each Labor Day Weekend and sponsored by Sons Light Ministries of Boone, the festival has proved to be a life-changing event in recent years for many young people who come from many miles with their youth group leaders and parents.

Bentley will share the spotlight with South Carolina native R.V. Brown, well-known motivational speaker, teacher, author, award-winning athlete, coach and founder of Outreach To America's Youth Inc.

Brown speaks in schools, on college campuses and at rallies, camps and conferences throughout the United States, challenging and motivating people of all ages to be the best they can be.

Music will be provided by recording artists Sanctus Real, Carl Cartee and 7-Miles.

Josh Thurman and Cam Haas will lead praise and worship.

Doors will open for Sunday's event at 3:30 p.m, with all activity concluding at 8 p.m.
Prior to the evening event, an outdoor concert will take place on the convocation center grounds at 2:30 p.m., where inflatables will be available for added fun in the sun.

The annual SonRun 5K kicks off the festival weekend at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Greenway Trail, located behind the Watauga County Swim Complex in Boone. Preregistration is available through the ministry website; race day registration will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

The "Rat Race," described as a  "race against time," by event organizer David Ward, is based upon the Scripture found in Hebrews 12:1: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."

Who is JohnMark Bentley?

Bentley was a four-time high school state champion at Avery County High School and became the second wrestler in North Carolina high school history to win four state championships.

He finished his high school career with a perfect 144-0 record, capped by a national championship in 1997.

He also lettered in high school baseball, cross-country and track.
A 2001 communications graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Bentley received his master's degree in administration at ASU in 2007.

While in college, Bentley was a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion, was twice named MVP, was the 2001 ACC Wrestler of the Year and a 2001 university freestyle All-American.

He ranks sixth all-time in career-winning percentage at UNC-Chapel Hill with .851 and finished with 92 career wins.

Bentley's career started as top assistant wrestling coach at Davidson College in 2002. From 2003 to 2006, he was head coach at Watauga High School, leading the Pioneers to a third-place finish at the N.C. state championships with three individual state titlists in 2006.

Bentley was an assistant coach for two seasons at App State before being named associate head coach in 2008.

He holds the title of 2012 Southern Conference Coach of the Year, was third place in NCAA Coach of the Year voting for 2012 and coached App State to Southern Conference Championship in 2012, and to a 21st place finish at the NCAA tournament.

Bentley has coached two All-Americans, eight Southern Conference champions and two SoCon Wrestlers of the Year in his four years as head coach at App State.

"God has blessed me so much by allowing me to coach a Division I program in the sport I love -- and so close to my hometown," Bentley said.

Citing family as having always been a big part of his life, Bentley credits his parents "for helping establish the strong roots in Christianity and the growth of my faith," he said.

Bentley says he sees wrestling "as the greatest sport on earth for many reasons, but mostly for the life lessons it teaches so many individuals."

Wrestling has prepared him for so many tough obstacles that he has faced in life, he said, and he plans to share some of his journey with those in attendance at the Praise Festival.

"I plan on discussing my faith and how I came to know Christ at an early age," he said. "I also plan on talking about the sport of wrestling and how it has helped shaped who I am as a person."

Bentley and his wife, Aaron, have two children, daughter Katie Elisabeth, 2, and son Luke Franklin, 5 months.

He grew up in Crossnore and is the son of Paul and Rita Bentley. He has a sister, Sara, and a brother, Matthew.

Praise Fest 2013

"We want people to join us for a weekend of Christian fellowship and worship through a variety of activities," Ward said.

Admission to the festival is $5. Tickets will be available at the Holmes Center box office, or by calling (828) 262-6603 or in advance at or through iTickets at (800) 965-9324 or at For event information, call Son's Light Ministries at (828) 264-2007, email ( or visit