CLARION, Pa. – After four years at the helm of the Clarion Bobcats wrestling team, head coach Brian Luton resigned from his position to focus on his family and his role in the family business.
Luton had an overall 27-30 record during his four years in charge of the Bobcats, and his development of a strong youth and junior high wrestling program should help keep the Bobcats competitive for years to come.
Luton took the job as Clarion’s head coach with the goal of providing a framework for the long-term sustainability of the program, and he cited an emphasis on “fun and presentability” as vital in retaining student athletes.
Luton explains: “The kids need to have fun, [especially] if they are not necessarily diehard wrestler[s]. We tried to open [our program] up, allowing them to have fun, while still maintaining a standard of learning and competitiveness that can foster their growth.”
Clarion’s elementary and junior high programs have experienced tremendous growth under Luton’s tenure, and he credits the work of community volunteers as vital in ensuring these gains.
“I think that we were really fortunate to have some very involved benefactors, and people in our community really help to advance our program that you might not see in the wins and losses column, but I think you’ll see it in the future with some of our younger groups of kids in elementary and junior high,” Luton said.
Community involvement is important for any established athletic program, and Luton was successful in unifying the local wrestling community with his squad.
Two of Luton’s biggest successes are his pioneering of the Clarion Wrestling Club, and the strengthening of his team’s relationship with Clarion University’s wrestling program.
“We were able to establish a local wrestling club, something that hasn’t really been done or maintained before, and I think you’re going to see the dividends really pay off with these the youth and junior high age kids that have had that opportunity.” Luton further explains.
“We are fortunate to have a division one college program in our backyard and get some of the new [techniques and coaching ideas] at our fingertips and then to our kids on the mat. We tried to really bridge that gap, and I think it’s paying off for some of those kids that have put the time in.”
Receiving wisdom from division one coaches and nationally-ranked grappling talent should help future generations of Clarion wrestlers compete at the highest level.
Luton believes the biggest reward of his four years in charge was watching his athletes grow both athletically and personally.
“Wrestling is a very grueling sport. At the end of the season, watching [how] some of those kids grow as athletes and young men is probably the biggest reward.”
Coaching a small team at a small high school has its challenges, and one of Luton’s biggest challenges was dealing with and managing injuries.
“We’ve had some athletes that were really unfortunate to get banged up at the wrong time and that was a huge challenge for us. [To have] some guys that could make some noise at the regional or state level and to not see them get the opportunity is tough for the athlete, but also to be watching a kid not get that chance was difficult and challenging for me to process.”
Fielding a complete roster is a challenge for most local wrestling programs, and while Clarion struggled at times with low participation totals, Luton believes that the future is bright for the Bobcats.
“We had some numbers games where we fought to try and get roster spots filled, but I think we’re coming out of that [problem]. We’ve got really good numbers in junior high, and the varsity team will continue to make strides in all those weight classes. We’re not quite where I wanted to be when I resigned or stepped away, but I think we’ve got a lot of things headed in the right direction. I know that when somebody steps in there, with some hard work, they could do very well.”
Luton described his decision to step down as “tough,” but he is excited to be able to spend more time with his family.
“I’ve got two little kids. They are five and three, and I want to be around while they are growing up. Growing up only happens once, and it seemed like the right time for me to spend more time in that area of my life.”
Luton will also have more time to spend working for his family’s business, Luton’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C.
Luton wanted to thank Clarion School District, superintendent Joseph Carrico, and athletic director Nancy Mills for the opportunity to coach Bobcats Wrestling. Clarion is currently searching for a replacement for Luton.