Skip To Main Content

St. John's Prep Announces New Wrestling Head Coach

St. John's Prep Announces New Wrestling Head Coach

St. John’s Prep Athletic Director Jameson Pelkey has announced that North Andover native and Beverly resident Ryan Harding ’09 will be the new head coach of the Eagles’ wrestling program, effective immediately. A long-time varsity assistant and jayvee coach at the school, Harding is a 2009 graduate of the Prep who went on to wrestle at Duke University after winning an All-State championship and earning All-American status as a senior. Ryan also serves as the assistant dean of students for the high school and St. John's recreational sports coordinator.

Harding, 33, spent five seasons as a varsity assistant with the Eagles wrestling team under National Wrestling Hall of Fame coach Manny Costa, who retired at the conclusion of this past season. Harding served at the helm of both the Prep’s middle school wrestling team and freshmen lacrosse squad from 2021-23.

“Ryan brings a particularly eclectic point of view to the table as a coach and educator,” said Pelkey, now in his fifth year as Eagles AD. “He has advanced degrees in childhood education and high-performance coaching. He knows St. John’s sports culture as both an athlete and coach. He’s taught and coached in a variety of curricular and sociodemographic settings. We think all of this makes him uniquely qualified to nurture each student-athlete as an individual. That hyper-personalized approach is closely aligned with how our wrestling program has operated in each of the past four decades.”

Harding readily acknowledges that he’ll need every asset in his arsenal to assume the mantle of head wrestling coach at St. John’s Prep. After all, Costa’s career spanned 34 seasons, encompassed more than 700 wrestlers and endured more than 1,000 dual meets. The Prep’s average season dual meet record during Costa’s tenure was 26-4. Harding was one of 39 state champions coached by Costa and he’s taking over a program that has won a divisional state title in each of the past four seasons, including the All-State championship in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

“I think one of the many lessons Manny teaches is that you need to be your authentic self to be successful,” said Harding. “When you look at the grandeur of his long career, it’s overwhelming to think about. But when it comes to coaching wrestling, you have to get focused on one day at a time, one minute at a time. For me as a coach, it’s about making sure that each decision is made in terms of ‘how does this best serve my student-athletes?’ I can find solace and comfort in knowing that I will be planning the athletes’ experience down to the minute, so I don't have to think about a 30-plus year career as we coach throughout a season.”

Harding owns an M.S. in Childhood Education and Special Education from Touro College (N.Y.) and an M.S. in Sports Management with a concentration in High Performance Coaching from the University of Florida. He was an All-ACC Academic Team honoree at Duke, where he earned his B.A. in U.S. History after completing a post-graduate year at the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut. Harding has coached in public school settings at the Ninth Grade Academy in Lawrence, where he served as an academic tutor and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, as well as at the Success Bronx 1 Middle School and the Success Academies Harlem East Middle School in New York. 

“My overall philosophy is to best support what a wrestler’s goals are,” said Harding. “Wrestlers come out for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to be friends with a bunch of teammates, to work on their self-image, or to win a state championship. I’m very comfortable trying to support all of those goals and more. We want to optimize the experience for all of our athletes because four years goes by really quickly, and if we’re not doing that, we’re doing them a disservice. What’s really helpful is to have so many amazing people in our athletic department who I can bounce ideas off of. Being able to leverage the Prep community to support my team’s kids is a great resource to have in my back pocket.”

Harding takes over an Eagles’ program that has gone 98-1 in dual meets since the MIAA’s COVID-adapted season of 2021.