Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Prep Wrestling: Lowe's long journey leads to Hall of Fame

It was 1988 when John Lowe stood in the St. Michaels High School cafeteria facing seven high school boys.

Lowe, an alumnus of St. Michaels, was about to start his first year coaching the wrestling team and his squad consisted of those seven boys. Now, Lowe is getting ready to start his 10th season as the Winters Mill wrestling coach and his Falcons will be attempting to win their third straight state title.

It has been a long, winding journey with several stops for Lowe, but his hard work and success will be honored Oct. 28 when he is scheduled to be inducted to the Maryland Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum in Annapolis.

"When I started coaching on the Eastern Shore, it was seven people in the room and we were folding up cafeteria tables so we could lay down a 20-year-old mat and have some space to wrestle," said Lowe, who helped restart the program at his alma mater.

Lowe came to Winters Mill from McDaniel College, where he coached the Green Terror for nine seasons, won 108 matches and four Centennial Conference titles along the way. His win total is second all-time in school history.

Lowe has a 116-36 dual-meet record at Winters Mill with two state team titles, a state dual-meet crown, and four consecutive county tournament championships. The Falcons have 28 state placewinners and 23 county champions under Lowe.

Wrestling wasn't nearly as popular when Lowe was growing up, but he was exposed to the sport from an early age. While most kids ran around idolizing Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas, Lowe didn't.

His dad used to jog down the street and wrestle with Navy's heavyweights, so to Lowe those were the athletes he was enamored with.

"If I said the names of some of those wrestlers to people outside the sport they would say, 'Who?'" Lowe said. "But to me they were like LeBron or Kareem or Air Jordan."

Naturally Lowe would join the wrestling team as a freshman at St. Michaels, but his first season didn't go so well. Lowe recalls being guaranteed a varsity spot because he was the only one on the team that weighed less than 98 pounds. The veteran coach also doesn't remember winning a match and scoring just a handful of points.

Yet it was that experience that drives Lowe to be a better coach and strive to reach excellence in every aspect of wrestling.

"I was a mediocre athlete so I figured if I could learn more I could be a better coach," Lowe said. "I'm trying to prove I don't suck. This is my attempt to gain respect and with every single award or milestone, I believe I'm proving something."

Ironically he won't be the first John V. Lowe to enter the Hall of Fame because his uncle of the same name was inducted in 2001.

Honored to be included in this year's class, Lowe seems to have a different way of enjoying it than most might.

"Really the nicest thing about it is you start to get ideas and think it's going to work on the mat and you stick with it," Lowe said. "Now this gives validation that I wasn't crazy all that time."

Winters Mill athletic director Stephen Speck has a unique perspective on Lowe. Speck, who coached against Lowe at Century, now oversees the Falcons wrestling program.

The former wrestler doesn't mince words when he explains what Lowe has meant to the program at Winters Mill.

"He brings an unquestioned wealth of knowledge to the table and he harnesses that and applies it to student-athletes who would have never considered themselves as potential wrestlers," Speck said. "He takes young men primarily who never even pondered the sport, introduces them to it and creates champions out of them.

"He's resurrected [the program] and he's affirmed it such that there is never a concern in my mind that it will remain a thriving program here."

But for all the accomplishments and titles, it isn't just wrestling teachings that leave an impact on his current and former wrestlers. Lowe makes it a point to use wrestling as his vehicle for life lessons as well.

Following up on his kids in the classroom and making sure they do well academically through support, Lowe leaves a lasting mark on his wrestlers.

"He was the one figure in the whole school that everyone knew and respected and in the community," said Justin Kozera, a former Falcons wrestler and a two-time state champion. "He was always on top of our studies if we missed class or did something bad in class, we couldn't practice that day.

"He really just taught that there is more to life beyond sports. Sports are going to end and you are going to have to get a real job and you have to grow up at some point, he told us."

With his impending induction and growing list of achievements, don't expect Lowe to change the way he goes about coaching wrestling.

Channeling what he calls the "little guy syndrome," Lowe never stops striving to prove people wrong and kids of all ages benefit from his teachings.

"As soon as I get inducted, I'm sure those little voices will be saying to me that I need to prove they made the right selection," Lowe said. "That I wasn't a fluke and I still want to prove that I don't stink."