Pete Siarkas is a self-proclaimed old school type of guy. Whether it is his straightforward approach or simple wrestling philosophies, the fourth-year Sherwood High School coach has found success on the mat.
This winter, the 1990 Albert Einstein graduate has led the Warriors to one of their better seasons with a 13-1 regular season dual meet record and a runner-up finish at the Class 4A/3A West Region dual meet tournament. Three more postseason tournaments remain on the schedule, starting with Friday and Saturday’s county tournament at Gaithersburg High.
“It was the first time for him and us as seniors to get to regional duals,” captain Chris Minor said. “So that is pretty cool, but we still got counties, regions and states left to make this year better.”
For the first time this season during his head coaching tenure at the Sandy Spring school, Siarkas had a full lineup available. In the previous three seasons, Sherwood was largely competitive, but forfeited several matches, unable to fill certain weight classes.
“Team wise we’ve been OK,” Siarkas said. “It’s been weird with numbers because every year I’ve had 25, 30 kids. But until this winter, we had a handful of forfeits that put us in a hole right off the bat. We were losing matches by six to 10 points and spotting teams 12 to 18 points. It was very frustrating for us and the kids. I felt bad for them.”
In order to combat a potential loss of confidence, Siarkas kept his own record, determining wins and losses based on the number of bouts the Warriors actually wrestled per match.
“He coached us up through hard times,” senior Chris Minor said. “I kind of saw this program could [be successful again] once we had people at right weights.”
Part of the reason for Sherwood’s consistency is the familiarity and continuity amongst the coaching staff within the Olney, Brookeville and Sandy Spring community. Siarkas’ assistants are his brother, John Siarkas, and longtime high school friend and former Einstein teammate Justin Gearhart. His nephew, Charlie Siarkas, is Sherwood’s 220-pound sophomore starter.
Pete Siarkas took over the coaching reins following the 2009-10 season from longtime coach Scott Beattie, who built Sherwood into one of the county’s better wrestling programs, having won the 1997 state tournament and finishing in the top 4 on four other occasions. Siarkas and Gearhart also wrestled for Beattie at Einstein and Siarkas served as an assistant under Beattie at Sherwood.
“We worked together for so long I took a lot from Scott,” said Siarkas, who served as Einstein’s coach for four years in the early 2000s. He has also coached football and volleyball in the high school ranks “I take pride in the accomplishments we had and I like to think some of that was my doing.
“I have an old-school philosophy and we’ve stuck with it. I don’t coach with a lot of flare or go for big moves. We break a man down, work half-nelsons, keep it simple and work hard.”
Over the past few offseason, Siarkas has seen an increase in his grapplers participating in off-season events, including going to summer camp. Sherwood also draws experienced youth wrestlers from the Olney Boys’ and Girls’ Club, but many potential contributors in the Sherwood district decide to attend private school, Siarkas said.
This spring, Siarkas’ first class of four-year wrestlers under his tutelage will graduate. Minor, who has more than 100 career wins and was the 4A/3A West Region champion at 132 pounds last year, and classmate Mike Macheras, both four-year varsity grapplers, have been a source of leadership for a veteran team that is particularly strong in the lower and middle weights.
“It’s been kind of cool to have your uncle as your coach, but he doesn’t treat me like family member,” Charlie Siarkas said. “That’s probably why he’s been successful. Everyone is treated the same.”