John Lowe said he had been planning for the last few years to step down as wrestling coach at Winters Mill once his youngest son, Alex, was finished with high school.
But there was something about this season that changed his mind. Physically and mentally, Lowe said, the timing was right to accelerate the timeline.
So Lowe is leaving his post after 16 seasons as Falcons coach, with a resume full of accomplishments on an individual and team level.
“My body’s wearing out on me,” Lowe said. “I’ve had two hip surgeries, there’s probably a third one coming. I’ve had knee surgery. I’ve got a torn up neck and shoulder. … When you spend four months in a squat, that’s going to wear on you a little bit.”
Lowe, 53, said spending the entire year doing nothing but wrestling became more and more difficult as the years passed. He runs the Grindstone Wrestling Club, and the Central MD Summer League, which is geared toward high school and college grapplers.
“It all kind of ties into one big thing, and I don’t feel like I’ve been able to do it halfway,” Lowe said. “I can’t ‘kind of’ do it. I feel like I have to do it all the way if my name’s going to be on it.
“I remember feeling a little more tired than usual. A little more of a feeling like you’re swimming upstream. It just felt like the right time.”
Winters Mill won 211 dual meets under Lowe, who guided the Falcons to 12 county championships (seven county tournament, five regular season), six regional titles, and five state crowns.
Winters Mill won Class 2A-1A state dual-meet titles in 2012 and 2013, and claimed 2A-1A state tournament crowns in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
The Falcons won Carroll County Athletic League dual meet and CCAL tournament championships in 2019, and competed in the 2A-1A West Region duals tournament.
Lowe, an alum of St. Michael’s High School on the Eastern Shore, came to Winters Mill from McDaniel College, where he spent nine seasons as Green Terror coach and crafted a 108-67-1 dual-meet record. McDaniel won four Centennial Conference championships under Lowe.
When he made the switch from college to high school, the biggest challenge was finding enough athletes in the building to fill a roster. The Falcons had their share of studs — the program has seven state champions, and 14 with 100 or more career wins — but Lowe became adept at plucking kids from the hallways, teaching them the fundamentals, and letting them shine on the mat.
“What I really honestly enjoy, is turning something out of nothing,” Lowe said. “When I got to [McDaniel] they had like six or seven guys on the roster. Convincing people that we can change culture and turn it into a program that’s nationally renowned … or at Winters Mill, brand new school, and helping turn it into something that’s recognized around the state.”
Lowe received Maryland Coach of the Year from the National Wrestling Coaches Association in 2011. In 2012, Lowe joined the Maryland Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The following year, the Times honored him as its Coach of the Year at the inaugural High School Athlete of the Year Awards banquet.
“I didn’t see it coming, and I didn’t even know it existed,” Lowe said, “and I was very moved by that. Having not been from Carroll County … that was touching. It was kind of like, ‘OK, all right. I’m here now. I’m one of the locals.’”
Lowe said he talked with his family before making the decision to step down, and he’s looking forward to having free evenings in the winter for the first time since 1978. But he won’t be a stranger to the Falcons program, he said.
“Winters Mill was the first gig I ever had where it allowed me to teach and coach at the same place,” Lowe said. “All the others were part-time this, or part-time that. And I never really felt like I could put everything into it.