Josh Shields saw his collegiate wrestling career end a year earlier than expected; but now he's become a high school varsity head coach earlier than expected.
Shields, a 2006 graduate of Burrell High School, was hired as head wrestling coach at his alma mater at the May 21 school board meeting.
"I always wanted to be a head wrestling coach, but never thought it would come this quickly," Shields said. "To be hired at my alma mater is special. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario."
Shields made his coaching debut last season as an assistant under Bud Sines, who led Burrell to two WPIAL Class AA team titles in his two years with the program. Sines resigned after the season when his wife accepted a job in Atlanta.
"I really enjoyed my season as Bud's assistant," Shields said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of running one of the most successful programs in the state."
Burrell has won seven consecutive WPIAL titles under three coaches: Chris Como, Ryan Yates and Sines. Shields would like to keep the streak alive.
"The pressure [of continuing the streak] is expected. In fact, I look forward to it," Shields said. "Pressure brings out the best in me."
Shields had a distinguished high school career. He was a four-year starter, three-year PIAA qualifier, and two-time PIAA place-winner at Burrell. He won a WPIAL title and placed second in the PIAA as a 160-pound senior, and finished his career with a 147-44 record.
"Wrestling at Burrell was a great experience for me," Shields said. "Now I can give back to a program that helped me so much."
Shields continued his wrestling career at Mercyhurst University in Erie, but shoulder surgery prior to his final season prematurely ended his career. He was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American and one-time champion.
He placed fourth in the country as a redshirt freshman, won a championship as a redshirt sophomore and was a runner-up as a redshirt junior, all at 165 pounds.
"It was so disappointing to sit out my senior year," Shields said. "I wanted one more shot at winning a second NCAA title."
Shields graduated from Mercyhurst with a degree in international business.
"I'm working for Atrium Innovations, a nutritional group," Shields said. "They have a facility in Pittsburgh, so I work in the city. Fortunately, I can have varsity practices at 5:30 p.m., which gives me plenty of time to get back from Pittsburgh."
Shields is fortunate to have a half-dozen coaches who will serve as assistants, some paid and some volunteer. His brother, Jordan, a recent Mercyhurst graduate, has joined the staff.
"We want to build off last year's success," Shields said. "In fact, I want to get this program to the point where we are continually winning state medals, both individually and as a team."
Shields must replace four starters who graduated, including WPIAL and PIAA champion Dakota DesLauriers, who will soon begin his collegiate career at Mercyhurst. But that's not to say he doesn't have a solid nucleus with which to build around.
"We have a lot of kids coming back and we have a great junior high program," Shields said. "We also have Derrick Beattie coming back after missing last season with an injury. Derrick led our team in pins as a sophomore."
Also back are three PIAA qualifiers, John Andrejcik, Steven Edwards and Alan Beattie. Andrejcik and Edwards were also PIAA place-winners.hsother