After spending five seasons as head coach, Josh Barrette has turned over the Washington High School wrestling program to someone he knows and trusts: John Paiani, the junior high coach for the past two seasons.
Paiani was hired at Monday night’s school board meeting after Barrette submitted his resignation two weeks ago following Washington’s elimination in the WPIAL Class AA Championships.
“John and I talked about it off and on during the season,” said the 26-year-old Paiani. “He felt I was ready to stay with the kids and help them along the way.”
Barrette was one of the individuals who stood up last year to defend the program when the school board wanted to eliminate it and the boys tennis and soccer teams.
“I have two young kids, and I feel I can’t devote as much time as I’d like to,” said the 36-year-old Barrette. “I’ll step aside and let John take over. I’ll still help out, be a volunteer assistant.”
Paiani is a 2005 graduate of South Park High School and graduated from Waynesburg University in 2009. He had a brief wrestling career that ended when he suffered an ACL injury in college.
“I wish I had started wrestling sooner,” said Paiani. “At South Park, my friends and coaches convinced me to come out. They needed to fill weight classes. I was a two-year starter and a WPIAL qualifier.”
Washington’s junior high program has club status. Last year, the Prexies competed in two tournaments and about eight dual meets. Paiani must find a new junior high coach.
“I’ve seen a lot with those kids,” said Paiani, who is a chemistry teacher at the high school. “I wanted to encourage the junior high kids. We had two seniors on last year’s (varsity) team, and there are seven or eight in the eighth grade coming up. So we should be able to fill the weight class.”
Paiani said he’s proud of the steps made to improve the junior high program.
“There was no junior high program three years ago,” he said. “When Josh took over (as head varsity coach), we only had a few kids. The past year, we had 11. These kids know me, and that will make it easier. They have an idea of my philosophy. I’m not going to change many things.”
Barrette was pleased when the school board decided not eliminate the programs and worked hard to continue building a foundation for wrestling.
The wrestling program has produced 13 PIAA individual champions and six WPIAL Team Tournament titles. In 1950, Washington was the site of the PIAA Individual Championships.
“The one thing about John taking over is that there is a good group of kids there,” Barrette said. “He’s got stuff to work with. I really enjoyed my time there. I worked with a lot of good kids.”
Barrette said he submitted his resignation quickly because he wanted to give the school district time to find the right person to succeed him.
“I’m still coming to matches but in a different capacity,” he said. “Just because I resigned doesn’t change the fact that I love this sport. I think it will be good. Those kids are on their way.”