Conneaut graduate Sherman takes over as Spartans wrestling coach

Conneaut head wrestling coach Keith Sherman, foreground, does dynamic stretching with his team during a recent practice.

When Keith Sherman came on board as a volunteer assistant for the Conneaut wrestling program a year ago, his message to coach Denny Distelrath was simple and straightforward.

“I have no interest in getting the head coaching job,” Sherman told the coach. “I’m here to help. You tell me what you need, and I’ll do it.”

A year later, though, with Distelrath taking off on a new career path, the program needed a head coach.

A 1994 graduate of Conneaut High School, and the former head coach at Grand Valley, where he was a regular at the state tournament, Sherman was the obvious choice.

The chance to coach the program he once wrestled for is something he said he’s always thought about.

“Wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to coach at Conneaut,” Sherman said. “I’m excited to take over the team.”

Sherman spent six years at GV, including three years as the head coach. He stepped down after the 2018 season, but stayed on as an assistant to Ross Tice.

In the time he was there, the Mustang program had four wrestlers reach the state tournament. He also worked with Chase Cottrell while he was in the younger grades. Cottrell placed eighth at 220 pounds in the Division III state tournament a year ago.

It’s been around five years since a Spartan wrestler has made the trip to Columbus. Changing that is just one of the goals Sherman says he has for the program.

“It’s my goal every year to have a kid or multiple kids on the podium every year at state,” he said. “For the team aspect, we really have to start working on building up the youth program some more.

“I set goals, the last goal is always the state championship. That’s pretty hard to come by, but I still think it’s important to work towards that and realize that we can get there if we put in the time and effort.”

Though he’s not worn the title of head coach the last few years, Sherman said the time he spent with the team last year should be beneficial in the transition the program will go through this season.

“I mostly worked with the middle school kids,” he said. “But, I came up to the high school and I taught and I worked with the kids; and you start building a relationship with them; you earn their trust. They believe what you’re telling them.”

The new coach takes over a program that has several exciting wrestlers in the room, most notable is Amari Bowers at 138 pounds. He was an alternate to the state tournament a year ago at 126.

Also returning are Logan Pinkerton (150) and Daren Christine (215), both of who were district qualifiers a year ago.

Steven Hagstrom (157), a senior, did not wrestle a year ago, but has returned to the mat and been impressive in the practice room. Freshman Owen Taylor (144) and seniors Jason Herd (165) and Scotty Edwards (215) are guys Sherman expects to win their share of matches this season.

The Spartans will open the season with a dual at Geneva on Dec. 2. They will have a busy  December with the Riverside Rumble and the Pymatuning Valley Laker Shaker, before going to Alliance for the Top Gun tournament, one of the more notable tournaments in the state.

“We want to give our top guys a chance to challenge themselves,” Sherman said. “To do that, you have to get outside the area. You place at Top Gun, you have a good chance of placing at state.”


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