Littleton named new PHS wrestling coach

PARKERSBURG — Matt Littleton, 28, a Parkersburg High School grad and a former wrestler for the Big Reds, was hired as the new PHS head wrestling coach Tuesday night at the Wood County Board of Education meeting.

Littleton graduated in 2008 from PHS, where he was a part a two Big Red state football championship teams in 2006-07 and two more state team titles in wrestling in 07-08.

He finished third at state as a senior at 160 pounds. His record that year was 35-7.

From PHS, he went to West Liberty University, where he wrestled for five years. On the mat, Littleton was a national qualifier as a junior, but lost in the All-American round. His senior year, he was ranked nationally, but blew his knee out and wasn’t able to finish his final college season.

Academically, Littleton graduated with a degree in physical health education, then helped start up and coach the wrestling program at Wheeling Jesuit University with Sean Doyle.

“We built that program up and I helped train two All-Americans, 10 national qualifiers and seven academic All-Americans there, and had a national duals runner-up as well,” he said,

After getting a masters degree in educational leadership, Littleton got a teaching job at PHS last year. And now he’s grabbed the position of head honcho of the Big Red wrestling team.

Even with his extensive wrestling background, “every day within a sport is obviously a learning process,” said Littleton. “You never stay complacent with what you do; you always try to get better every single day. So as much as I can learn, I can pass on to the guys that I’m coaching.”

When the PHS position became available with head mat coach Chris Way taking the job as athletic director, Littleton was interested in the opening “because I’ve always wanted to be a head coach. It was one of those goals I set for myself; I have high aspirations to do things like that. I didn’t think that this job would come available this early. But once I realized it was going to be, I started getting my things together to apply for it and put myself in a position to hopefully get the job.”

By being at PHS for a while now, Littleton does “know some of the wrestlers a little bit. And once school started since I had planned to be an assistant coach, I had been going to lifting with our guys and kind of building a relationship with them. So I know who they are and since they see me in school and know who I am, I’m able to stop and talk to them a little bit, so they feel comfortable with me.”

Littleton noted that coming back to his high school as a head coach, “people dream about that all the time and I’m now doing that at a very young age. Our wrestling program’s been very tremendous and very good over the last years. To be able to take over something like that is just a true blessing in this life for me.”

Still, Littleton “is very anxious obviously for a lot of reasons. Being a first-time head coach is a phenomenal feeling within itself. But Chris left big shoes to fill, so you get some nervousness from that, knowing that you’ve got to perform because all eyes are on you.”

Nevertheless, he “also has the benefit of coach Way as the athletic director being just right down the hall from where I teach. So if I have a problem or a question, I can go to him for help or an answer.”

When Nov. 13 comes around as the first official practice day for wrestling, Littleton knows “that will be something with me having all kinds of mixed feelings when I step on that mat for the first time as head coach.”

Littleton too is apprehensive about “and it’ll be very tough,” he added, to follow in the footsteps of former highly-successful PHS head wrestling coaches like Bob Dutton, Joe Handlan Jr., Scheny Schenerlein and now Way, who “all did a fantastic job and produced countless athletes who went on to state titles, wrestled at the college level and some getting All-American honors,” Littleton said.

Littleton sees this step in his career as “a challenge for me. But the athlete in me, like most coaches, is you want to accomplish things. I want to enjoy the process of getting from where we’re at to winning a state championship.”