Watson to coach Meadowbrook’s inaugural season

Garth Watson has always had his sights set on becoming the head wrestling coach at a high school. But he didn’t want to settle for just any job.

He’s been patiently working as an assistant in District 4 since 1994 when he started at his alma mater Warrior Run. He also spent two years as Jim Snyder’s assistant at Lewisburg. But Watson has finally found a situation which is right for him.

Watson will be the wrestling coach at Meadowbrook Christian in Milton when the team begins its inaugural season in December. The school officially voted to add a varsity wrestling program in late January and named Watson its first coach. Former Warrior Run junior high coach Randy Watts will assist Watson.

“I’m super, super excited,” Watson said recently. “I’ve been blessed over the years to coach with (former Warrior Run coach Wayne Smythe) for 22 years at some capacity. I coached with Jim Snyder for two years when we had a lot of success. They’re two of the best in the area, and I’m pretty honored to be able to follow them. I think this is going to open doors for a lot of kids.”

Meadowbrook will be the 36th wrestling program in District 4, and the 33rd in Class AA. Its male enrollment of 22 would make it, by far, the smallest wrestling school in the district. Sugar Valley Rural Charter currently has the smallest male enrollment at 57. It would also be the smallest wrestling school in the PIAA. Students at Meadowbrook Christian High School have previously wrestled at Milton as part of the two schools’ co-op agreement.

The program began with the school giving Watson permission to form an elementary program last summer. A district which has just 400 total students had 24 of them on the first day of elementary wrestling practice.

That quick success and participation helped Meadowbrook move to adding a varsity program. It will be just the seventh PIAA-sanctioned program at the school. Currently the Lions field basketball, soccer and track and field programs which participate in the PIAA.

“We kind of pursued it though (former Meadowbrook school administrator) Rod Baughman. We thought it would be a good idea to start something here,” Watson said. “It’s been a very exciting atmosphere for the kids. It’s something new they can get excited about.”

Watson is well aware of the current battle public schools are waging against private schools with the PIAA and how there has been talk of wanting separate championships. And he’s been around the sport long enough to see how a school like Bethlehem Catholic, which has routinely added athletes from neighboring public school districts, has been received by its competitors as its prominence in Pennsylvania and national wrestling circles has grown.

While he hopes the wrestling program opens opportunities to explore Meadowbrook Christian as an educational option for students, Watson said the school “isn’t trying to pull everyone’s good wrestlers from area schools.”

“The school has to be a fit for the athletes,” Watson said. “We have enough younger kids in our program that we’re going to be fine. And I think once people see what we’re all about as a school, maybe then they’ll have to make a decision. I’m excited to compete.”

Watson already has visions of being able to compete on a team level within a couple seasons. But he knows it isn’t going to be as easy as saying that’s what he wants. The balance of talent and quality coaching in District 4 makes it an initial uphill battle for a young program just beginning to make its way in one of the best small-school districts in the state.

“This is a hotbed of wrestling,” Watson said. “There’s 56 kids from the Northeast Region that go to states every year, and 48 to 50 of them are from District 4. So you have to build your program to compete. As a coach at Meadowbrook, I want to build an elite program with elite athletes. But we know every year we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”