Warrenton wrestling Head Coach Kevin Fowler will become the school’s next athletic director, the department announced last week.
Fowler will replace current Athletic Director Bobby Spoonster, whose contract runs through June.
A native of Hannibal and graduate of Missouri Valley College (Marshall, Mo.), Fowler has worked with the Warrenton wrestling program the last 11 years, and has been the varsity head coach for the last 10.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “Obviously Warrenton has become my hometown, and I knew an opportunity to move up was in my future at some point, I just didn’t know where. So it’s refreshing and comforting to get to do it at a school you’ve taught at for over a decade. It was just a natural transition to be able to have a shot at the job here.”
Fowler has led a successful Warrenton wrestling program the last 10 years, which has included the program’s first state champion (J.J. Filipek in 2013) and state runners up each of the last two seasons.
That kind of success made Fowler’s decision to pursue the opening a little bit easier.
“The last time this was open I thought about going for it, but I still had some coaching goals I wanted to accomplish,” he said. “But then I saw this opportunity come again and I wanted to apply because I have less than 10 years left, and you never know if that window will come open again. I figured it was the right time, so I at least wanted to attempt to get it.”
Fowler said he spoke with friends and colleagues before the interview process to get a better gauge of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.
“Ted Hickey at Fort Zumwalt North, the Hannibal A.D. (Clint Graham), and Tracey Kemp, who used to be a principal at the middle school here,” he said. “Those guys gave me great advice, and now I’ll work closely with Bobby as he transitions out.”
He believes working and coaching in the Warrenton district helped his case during the interview process.
“I said one of my strengths was that I was coming right off the field. There hasn’t been a disconnect and I’m not coming from another town,” he said. “I have a little more of a connection with the kids and how they are in today’s society and what it’s like to be a coach in today’s society. Because things change, and you have to be able to adapt. And I’m happy that I can relate to today’s parents and kids.”
He also reached out to the non athletic side of the department as he looked to gain more information about activities he was less familiar with.
“With some of the extracurricular activities like band, chorus and FFA, I reached out to them before the interview process and spoke with them because as a coach, I know what I want from my A.D.,” he said. “But I don’t have a lot of background in those activities and asked them, ‘What do you guys need from an A.D.?’ ” Fowler said he’ll spend the month of June soaking up as much information as he can before officially taking over next month.
One of the first orders of business will be finding his replacement for the wrestling program, although he isn’t sure if the job will be filled before July.
Varsity assistant Ryan Cross is expected to apply for the opening, and would appear to be the leading candidate.
“Ryan and Clayton (Olsson) are both very capable,” Fowler said. “I don’t know what kind of looks we’ll have from the outside. I’m sure I’ll be involved in that hiring process, but I’m hoping to have those hires done before July.”
Replacing himself as he moves into his new role won’t be an easy one, he admitted.
“That’s a major drawback, and I’ll miss coaching football too. So leaving that behind is going to be tough, but I can still be involved in some wrestling stuff in the offseason,” he said. “It was tough to walk away from, but I thought it was time to give someone else a shot.”
He said Athletics Secretary Pam Terry has been a big help during his wrestling tenure and he expects she will ease his transition over the summer.
“I know the kids, coaches, faculty and staff in this building, the middle school and the elementary schools,” he said. “So it will be an advantage for me. I’m sure there will be hiccups, but people like Pam are going to be a big help to me. I’ve worked really well with her for the last several years.”
As for his short-term goals, Fowler’s vision is simple.
“I’m excited to try and help our coaches and make their jobs easier,” he said. “I’m ready to bring in more community involvement and get on the same page with them.”