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Steve Adam looking to restore Upper Perk wrestling to former glory

The assumption of a new coaching job can sometimes be accompanied by feelings of apprehension and uncertainty.

Steve Adam isn’t feeling it, however. To the contrary, his latest career move comes with a solid sense of familiarity.

Adam has been named the head coach of Upper Perkiomen’s high-school wrestling team. His appointment was confirmed by the district’s school board at its September meeting, making him the program’s third boss this calendar year.

“Upper Perk has a rich tradition in wrestling,” Adam said. “You can see it on the walls of their (wrestling) room.”

Adam takes over a program hampered by coaching issues earlier in the year. Former head coach Sam Walters resigned the last week in January, and assistant Jake Engle finished out the 2017 campaign in an interim capacity, indicating he was not looking to hold the post long-term.

“I was aware of the instability,” he said. “But that’s in the past. We’re making a fresh start.”

Adam got well-versed on Upper Perk’s heritage during his time at neighboring Brandywine Heights, where he was both a wrestler and coach.

The 1993 graduate compiled a 98-19 career record while achieving state-level tournament qualification. He wrestled at East Stroudsburg University for one year, and ultimately returned to his alma mater to become an assistant under the highly-respected Sam Lovello for two decades.

“We wrestled them (Indians) frequently in the 2000s,” Adam recalled. “They had the advantage … they got the better of Brandywine.

“Sometimes we had kids with over 150 wins wrestling each other. There were great battles by both districts.”

Adam gave considerable credit to Lovello, who coached the Bullets for 40 years prior to his death in September of 2016.

“We had a lot of success at the school with Sam Lovello,” he said. “I had a great mentor in Sam. We had a dynasty at Brandywine the same time as Upper Perk’s.”

Adam took over the program following Lovello’s death, Brandywine going 3-11 last year. He was not rehired by the school board, which instead chose Brandywine Heights Middle School teacher Tom Whalen after reposting the position around the end of May.

At Upper Perk, he will look to reconnect the program with its past glory. The Indians went 7-7 last season — 3-2 after Engle took over — and 4-1 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division, matching both Pottsgrove and Pottstown.

UP’s last double-digit dual-match win season was 2014-15, when it went 14-8. Its high-water mark this decade was the 20-9 record it compiled during the 2012-13 campaign.

“I know what it’s like to be on top,” Adam said, “and that’s where I want to put them.

“I want to stress the K-12 program being successful,” he added. “I want to work on the foundation, youth through junior-high all being on the same page.”

Adam’s focus with the UP grapplers will be on what made him successful during his athletic career with the Bullets.

“Working a lot on the feet,” he said. “Among the other things I was taught was, the best person on his feet will control the match.”

Adam is going to both UP’s and Brandywine Heights’ standout mat alumni to fill out his coaching staff.

Assisting him will be Kyle Kemmerer, a 112-pound state champion for the Bullets in 2003. Mark Smith and Ryan Kemmerer, who scored a combined five state medals during their careers with the Indians — Smith a 2002 graduate, Kemmerer a 2009 graduate who spent two years at UP before wrestling one year apiece at Spring-Ford and Boyertown — will be serving as volunteer assistants.

“I want to build a good staff around me,” Adam said. “We have a lot of guys in the junior high and youth programs who have them well-organized and well-run.”

Adam also has considerable familiarity with Upper Perk’s athletic director, Robert Kurzweg II, from their combined years of interaction at Brandywine Heights.

“I have a good rapport with the AD,” he said. “We worked together at Brandywine Heights for 15 years. The get-to-know stuff is out of the way.”

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