For more than a few years, when a Lehigh Valley varsity head coach job arose, the conversation naturally turned to Jeremy Hartrum.
Which made sense. Hartrum was a former state champion, accomplished varsity wrestler, distinguished academic assistant coach, and one of the sport’s most respected men in the region.
But Hartrum was never interested.
“There was only one place where I ever wanted to be a head coach,” said Hartrum. “Wilson. It was the only job I ever wanted to apply for.
And now he has it.
With the Wilson area school board approving Hartrum’s appointment on Monday night, Hartrum returns to his alma mater, to the only head coaching job he ever wanted, perhaps the only one he was, to the end, imaginable to see it take.
Because when Warrior Wrestling fans watch Hartrum, they see the show’s greatest moments of glory.
Hartrum won a PIAA 2A individual championship as a senior, as did two of his teammates, Cory Garis and Nick Krecker. In 2001 and 2002, the Warriors won state duels, and in 2002 Wilson won the tag team title in States 2A with seven medalists and 132 points, totaling No.7 all-time, No.3 all-time in 2A and No. 4 all-weather in District 11 (No. 1 in D-11 2A).
These were the days when Wilson could mingle with some of Easton’s all-time best teams tied in doubles, days when the Warriors were nationally ranked, days when the roof of Wilson Gymnasium would be. blown by a big pin or a tight win. . Wilson’s 10 individual state champions rank 3rd in D-11 2A all-time (Saucon Valley / Hellertown 13, North Schuylkill 11).
These were Wilson’s heyday.
It might be asking a lot of Hartrum, 37, to bring those times back to life. The sport has undergone seismic changes since then. On the one hand, Krecker was Wilson’s last state champion. On the other hand, this domination of the state tournament in 2002 occurred in the old Hersheypark arena. Yes, so long ago. Wilson hasn’t won the Colonial League since 2009.
But there is absolutely no doubt that Hartrum is the best choice to take Wilson forward.
And the way to do that is to replenish the Warrior family.
In a way, Hartrum’s family is fighting. Her brother, Justin (Wilson 2001) is the head of the Wilson Youth Wrestling Association. Krecker is Hartrum’s brother-in-law. His nephews are all wrestling, some in Wilson. His father, Al, is a familiar sight around the Wilson fight.
And on October 23, Hartrum, who lives in Bangor, will marry Rachel Monti, a former wrestling manager from Easton.
“She’s a great support,” Hartrum said. “She’s okay with postponing our vacation after wrestling season.”
Indeed, Hartrum, who works on juvenile probation for Northampton County, has made it clear that he could not – could not – have accepted the post without the full support and backing of his whole family.
Wilson’s size and intense community feeling make him a place where athletics can feel like family. If, during a Wilson match, it seems like everyone knows each other and is related to the team or the staff in some way or another, it’s because they know him, and they know him. are. Loyalty to blue and gold is taught from an early age to future Warrior athletes.
No one can harness that passion for results better than Jeremy Hartrum.
But Hartrum also has an extended family – his wrestling family. He has been an assistant coach at four different schools in the area – Wilson, under the direction of Tom Mertz, his first gig after college in North Carolina State; Parkland, under Ryan Nunamker; Easton, under JaMarr Billman; and, most recently, in Nazareth under the man who trained him in Wilson, Dave Crowell.
This is the quality of a pedigree.
“All of these guys are up for something – good morals and good values, which is great,” Hartrum said.
Here’s what Hartrum said he took away with each of his assistant coaching experiences
Crowell: “Coach Crowell has been invaluable to me as a wrestler and coach. I plan to implement the character building he does in his bedroom into my program. His technique is incredible. What he does at the end of training to get to know the kids is awesome. He is the best coach in the country.
Mertz: “Tom always does things right. He gave me my first job as an assistant. He is really knowledgeable and a very good friend. He left Wilson in a much better position than when he arrived. I know how difficult it was for him to leave (for Pen Argyl).
Billman: “We are really close friends. It represents everything I believe in. I love the way JaMarr ran his practices – like a college hall.
Nunamaker: “He’s always had a great training plan and the kids have always really liked him. He had a different style of breaking things down for kids, and he had some really good technical stuff. “
It’s quite a bit of a background.
The extended wrestling family extends to those who will help Hartrum in one way or another (roles are not yet defined): Bobby Frey, who took fourth place on this Wilson ’02 team; Lance Thatcher, a 2002 Del Val district champion who coached at Emmaus; Joe Kushnerick, a Wilson graduate and State Square winner in 2003 who wrestled at Columbia; Brandon Milhalko, 2000 Liberty State finalist who coached with Hartrum in Easton; Robbie Rizzolino, Easton graduate and varsity wrestler; Billman; and Hartrum’s father.
All of these names represent decades of success and wrestling tradition – Easton, Liberty, Wilson,
Del Val, Nazareth, Parkland – which Hartrum, in a sense, brings with him.
Now, what will Hartrum do with all this accumulated wisdom?
First of all, build a team that reflects your image.
“I want my wrestlers to love the sport, to be hard workers, to excel as fierce competitors and, above all, to show the highest level of sportsmanship,” said he declared. “That’s what we did when we wrestled, and that’s how I want it to be.”
Second, build support for the team.
“I want to involve the whole community,” Hartrum said. “I want to involve everyone – the non-wrestling student, student athlete, teachers and administration. We want to value children and support their families on and off the mat. We want parents to be involved. We hope it becomes contagious, that people want their children to be in this kind of situation. ”
Third, build relationships with other Warrior trainers.
“Wilson is a small community and we know we have to share athletes,” he said. “Football coach Christopher Labatch and I have been friends since we were kids and we have a good relationship.”
Fourth, create the feeding programs.
“We need to increase the numbers to the midget level and continue through junior high, once our system is up and running,” said Hartrum.
Fifth, build a wall around Wilson.
“We have to keep our children in our school,” Hartrum said. “We cannot let them transfer. We have to keep our children. It is a must.
And that is perhaps the biggest challenge Hartrum faces. In 2002, this glorious Wilson team was all local. All. It was possible then.
Now, with Catholics from Bethlehem and Notre Dame reaching national rankings and racking up state championships like Bugs Bunny stocking carrots, could a 2002 Wilson team ever reproduce?
You really have to ask yourself questions. Recent history has not been favorable to the Colonial League wrestling teams outside the Crusaders and the Saucon Valley.
But if it can happen again, if Wilson’s blue and gold can rule the waves again, we say the man who can make it happen is Jeremy Hartrum and his family of wrestlers, both natural and extended.
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Brad Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.