For Howarth trio, tradition never graduates

Tom and sons, Luke and Jackson, have been reunited as Marshwood assistant coaches under current wrestling coach Pat Howard

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine�� As Tom Howarth recalled, it was 1984 and Marshwood High School coaching legend Matt Rix was in his first year with the wrestling program as an assistant coach.

Howarth was a football player who had never wrestled before. �He actually talked me into wrestling,� Howarth said. �I was friends with him and I liked physical sports like football, so I said I�d try it out. I came out and I got about six other football players to join the wrestling team.�

At the time, remembered Howarth, the program had a handful of kids. It was in jeopardy of folding.

The Hawks got through the season. The following year, Howarth�s senior season, Rix took over as head coach, beginning a 33-year odyssey at the program�s helm, which included 10 state titles.

Fast forward to this year and Rix is no longer with the program after retiring in 2018.

But 35 years later, Howarth still is.

He wrestled at 155 pounds as a junior and 167 as a senior in 1985-86. After he graduated he came back to help out in the wrestling room because he loved the sport. Rix asked him to run the Pee Wee program 21 years ago. He did that, eventually sharing the duties with Todd Hughes as the program grew.

The two men had sons wrestling. Tom�s boys, Luke and Jackson, had taken to the sport, as had Hughes� son, Cody, now a senior wrestler on scholarship at Virginia Tech.

Tom helped Hughes out with the junior high team as each man followed their sons through the program and eventually to high school.

All three boys were part of Marshwood�s rise in the Maine Class A wrestling ranks. From 2011-12 to 2017-18, the Hawks won six high school state titles in seven years, including four in a row.

Cody Hughes and Jackson Howarth were part of the four straight titles, each earning an outstanding wrestler award at a state final while accumulating over 200 career wins apiece. Luke Howarth wrestled for the 2012 and 2013 state title teams with his brother and Cody Hughes.

Now, the three Howarths are reunited as Marshwood assistant coaches under current coach Pat Howard, a former Hawk wrestler and a longtime assistant under Rix.

�I just loved coming back,� said Tom, 52, who owns and operates a South Berwick building company. �It was an addiction.�

Both his sons quickly took to the sport at a young age

�I was fortunate that they grew up liking the sport,� Tom said. �The same sport I liked. Both of them excelled at it.�

But once they graduated, Luke and Jackson realized, like their dad, they still wanted to be involved in wrestling.

�Jackson was still there, so I went to practices,� said Luke, 25, who works for a financial company in Dover, N.H. �I worked out with him and some of the other kids in his grade.�

Luke then coached at the junior high for a bit under then coach Jake Rasque, before he came to the high school two years ago as an assistant with Rix.

When Howard took over, he asked Luke to stay on as his paid full-time assistant.

Jackson took a similar path. He came back to help the high school like his dad and brother had. He helped at the junior high for a year. Last year was his first as a volunteer assistant coach with the high school.

�Now I�m really getting into it more,� said Jackson, 22, who works for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as a diver. �I like coming back to help them get better. They give me a good workout, also.�

�It�s good to come back, too,� Luke said. �When we were in high school, we had a bunch of alumni come back and help. So it�s good to give back to the program that we�ve been part of since we were 3 or 4 years old.�

Having the Howarths on board has made Howard�s job a lot easier. In fact, he said, when he found out the Howarths were willing to coach with him, he felt much better accepting the post.

�I couldn�t ask for a better group of assistant coaches,� Howard said. �They�ve been brought up through the program their entire lives, especially Tom. He�s coached at every level all the way up through. (Luke and Jackson) wrestled at every single level all the way up through. They know the program inside and out. They know what�s expected every single day because they�ve done it themselves.�

It�s a little different being a coach versus being a wrestler. �We tell the kids, �We all did our time,�� Luke said. ��Now we�re here to help you.��

All three admit frustration at seeing the program at such a low ebb. Marshwood will send just seven wrestlers to this Saturday�s regional championship at Massabesic High School, which means they will be forfeiting seven weight classes.

�It�s tough,� said Tom, a volunteer assistant. �It goes in waves. It will be back.�

When Luke and Jackson wrestled Marshwood had some of its largest rosters ever with in excess of 30 kids.

But with Tom and Todd Hughes no longer at the Pee Wee or junior high levels to recruit kids, numbers have dropped off. There are also more sports to choose from.

And wrestling, let�s face it, is not for the faint of heart.

�It�s the toughest sport on the planet,� Tom said. �You can know every move in the book, but if you�re gassed on the mat, mentally and physically, you�re not going to be able to do it.�

�It�s not like WWE on TV,� Luke said. �It�s definitely a tough sport. You can�t go out there without giving your full effort. You have to be committed to have success.�

There were some kids this past fall, including football players, who showed interest in coming out for the team.

�I talked to them,� Tom said. �I think they just need to try it out. It was a sport as a junior, I loved it. I got roped in. I�ve been here ever since.�

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