It’s highly doubtful that you’ll ever see a high school wrestling match make the front page of any Boston newspaper or the local news, but don’t tell that to Needham High School’s varsity boys wrestling head coach Paul Ahern, who’s fully committed to the sport.
“I was in fourth grade [when I started], so pretty much from then I’ve never really given up my love for wrestling,” Ahern said.
The coach added, “A couple years out in California, I would even be going to high school matches. I couldn’t break away from it.”
Wrestling is life to Ahern, who returns to his alma mater to take over the ranks, and he is excited to teach the sport that his older brother encouraged him to join. Ahern also credits his former high school coach, who helped shape him as a leader.
“It really is great [to be back],” Ahern said. “[Coach] Tom Broadley—who helps us out as a volunteer coach—his father, Bill Broadley and his other brother, Steve Broadley, had a huge impact on me. But truth be told, when I came back in 2000 and I worked under Steve Tunney, I just thought that Steve took not just Needham wrestling but the Bay State Conference and state wrestling to a different level with his technique.”
Ahern knows that this so called “technique” won’t happen over night, but he seems motivated to help the Rockets resurrect a program that has had success over the years but also hasn’t won a state championship since 1966.
However, winning a championship doesn’t seem to be the main thing on Ahern’s mind. The head coach is more focused on making sure his entire team is prepared for their season, as well as for their opening match against Brookline High School.
“We open with Brookline on Friday [Dec. 9], and Brookline like us has some real athletic kids, real good wrestlers. They have some holes, and we’ll see. It’s going to be an interesting matchup,” Ahern said.
After Brookline, Needham will face a challenging and daunting foe, North Andover, a team Ahern believes will be a true test for the Rockets.
“North Andover, they come in two-time defending division state champs, ranked No. 1 in the all state [poll], perennial powerhouse, and they’re reporting that this is their best team ever, and this would be like Walpole saying this is their best football team or Newton North saying, 'This is the best hoop team,'" Ahern said. “That’ll be a real test for us.”
While Ahern is excited about being the head coach, he appears more interested in teaching the sport and helping the various young men he’s going to be coaching this season improve and get better one day at a time.
“I love to be reminded that kids always possess more than anyone could guess of them. And the kids who make it through the wrestling season, I have the most admiration for what they achieve. I just feel that every kid brings something unique,” he said.
The coach concluded by saying, “I think it’s an intelligent sport. I think it encourages individuality, and it’s a weird type of team sport in that you contribute best to the team when you’re true to yourself."