Conestoga rallies for Harner’s 300th win

TREDYFFRIN — For the 90 minutes his team was in action, Conestoga coach Steve Harner was in his element — coaching, urging, investing.

It was the five minutes that followed Conestoga’s 32-25 victory over Haverford High that made the old-school coach a bit uncomfortable.

Tuesday, in front of a home crowd, the Central League outcome gave Harner 300 dual meet wins for his career, prompting fans to hold up “300′ signs and a poster presentation commemorating his big achievement.

The majority of Harner’s wins (191) came while he headed Norristown High, with other coaching stints taking place at Clarion High, Bishop Kenrick High, Ursinus College, Williamson Trade School before taking over Conestoga in 2008.

“I guess if you coach long enough you’re gonna get there,’ Harner said.

Down 22-19 with five to go, Conestoga (7-1 league, 11-2 overall) outscored the Fords (3-5, 9-8) 13-3 down the stretch.

Eric Hutchinson (113 pounds), Mike Tarrant (120), Mike Sklar (126) and Kevin Zhao (138) won four of the last five bouts for the Pioneers.

“Coach didn’t mention (300 wins) at all,’ Stoga’s Dan Iredale said. “I don’t think he likes talking about it. He’s a real modest guy and just wants us to win the match.’

Conestoga had a run of four straight undefeated seasons on the Central League from 2003-2006, but has come up a dual meet or two short of the top most of the years since.

Working to compete and challenge the best is one of Harner’s great motivations and joys of coaching the Pioneers.

“I like high school because you don’t have to recruit,’ Harner said. “I get to teach and I get to see kids improve and get better.’

Stoga got off to a fast start with a major decision by Iredale (145). Haverford scored the next 13 points with the heart of its lineup, but the Pioneers were able to keep the losses minimal.

A year ago Conestoga’s Kit Schofield (195) was pinned by Chip Rossino, but Tuesday night he kept it to a 2-0 decision. After six bouts, the Pioneers trailed by only nine.

“(Jack Elken), (Dan Wade) and (Schofield) fought like devils and did a great job not giving up points,’ Harner said.

Conestoga took the lead then when Ethan Pentz (220) managed the only pin of the night, and Mike Karas (285) collected a forfeit.

“We mentioned (300) a couple of times, but it wasn’t a huge motivation,’ Pentz said. “We just wanted to win.’

That business-like attitude certainly trickles down from Harner, as does the wealth of knowledge he has amassed in his 30-plus years of coaching wrestling.

“He’s a real tough coach,’ Iredale said. “he pushes us further and further and he knows how to get the most out of everyone.’

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