MILTON — While the 2018-19 scholastic wrestling season begins to hit its apex for most area teams, there will be a new program in the mix that is already setting its sights on next year.
Meadowbrook Christian School outside of Milton will put a wrestling team on the mats for the first time in 2019-2020. The go-ahead was given during January’s school board meeting.
Leading the Lions in their inaugural season is long-time Warrior Run softball and wrestling coach, Garth Watson. Joining him on the bench will be close friend and mentor, Randy Watts.
“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to start the program at Meadowbrook. It means so much to me that (Christ Weleyan) Church, the school board, administration, school faculty and (athletic director) Amy Smith chose me to build this new program,” said Watson. “The decision was unanimous at the school board meeting. It is a great opportunity for student-athletes at all three levels (elementary, junior high and varsity) to get an incredible education in a positive environment, and also have the experience to compete in the sport of wrestling that they will thoroughly enjoy!
“There is an overwhelming interest in wrestling from the kids already enrolled at Meadowbrook, and I believe that was one of the factors in the decision to start the program,” Watson added.
And with Watts by his side, Watson will steer the program into the tricky waters of District 4 Class 2A, which is where the Lions will be competing next season. Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, Milton and Watson’s alma mater, Warrior Run, will all compete in the same classification.
“Watts has had a huge impact in my life today. Coach Watts was one of my high school coaches, a training partner when I competed in the summer and at the collegiate level,” said Watson. “We coached several years at Warrior Run together and had four undefeated seasons (at the junior high level). Coach Watts is a positive person who is awesome with kids. He has a lengthy resume that contains being both a good wrestler when he competed and a good coach.
“Coach Watts has a lot to offer to the Meadowbrook program. I am looking forward to coaching kids here at Meadowbrook next season – competing at an elite level with both team and individual success.”
Finding success on the wrestling mat is nothing new to Watson.
During his high school wrestling career for the Defenders, Watson claimed both a District 4 sectional and individual title on the way to qualifying for the PIAA Championships in 1994. He then won a freestyle national title before joining Lycoming College’s program where Watson was guided by veteran and respected Warrior’s head coach, Roger Crebs.
A shoulder injury ended Watson’s wrestling career early, however, but not before he finished an impressive freshman season that saw him compile a 24-3 record and win a Middle Atlantic Conference individual title.
“I had success because of the guidance of the great coaching I was given by (Warrior Run head coach) Wayne Smythe, and Watts,” said Watson, who would find his way back to the program and become an long-time assistant under Smythe following his college days.
And that’s where Watson would hone his coaching chops – the ones that would eventually lead him to Meadowbrook’s new program.
“I coached at Warrior Run under Coach Smythe for 22 years at either the varsity, junior high or elementary levels. I spent two seasons with longtime friend Jim Snyder at Lewisburg High School where the team was District 4 team runner-up and competed in the state tournament before losing to Northern Lehigh,” said Watson.
“Watts and I had the opportunity to coach four undefeated seasons together (at the junior high level), and win 45 dual meets in a row before losing. We won several Central Susquehanna Valley League titles, PHAC titles, and the Tournament of Champions at Shamokin High School five times.”
And if there is any question, Watson will also remain as head softball coach at Warrior Run where the Defenders have had a lot of success in recent years – including reaching the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals a year ago (team lost 1-0 to North Schuylkill) as a District 4 runner-up.
Watson has coached both sports simultaneously for many years, so he’s prepared for the workload that lies ahead.
“I have spent the past 13 years coaching the Warrior Run softball team where we have had a lot of success — winning two District 4 titles and being a 2012 state runner-up in Class 2A. I have the ability to coach due to the support of my wife, Sara, and my two children,” said Watson. “I am thankful for her in my life and the constant support that allows me to coach.
“I have coached both sports before at the same time, so it will not be much different. I have been fortunate and successful in coaching due to the extraordinary people I have surrounded myself with. I have had the ability to coach with some incredible people over the years in both sports and that is the key to all the success that I have experienced.
Among those extraordinary people Watson has surrounded himself with is Bucknell wrestling head coach Dan Wirnsberger, whose three sons currently attend Meadowbrook Christian. The three are projected to become a part of the first group of wrestlers to compete for the new program.
“Dan Wirnsberger has been a positive person in my life, and the job that he does with the Bucknell wrestling program is second to none,” said Watson.