“A New Year brings new expectations,” is a reply that Skyview High School’s wrestling coach Neldon Gardner often told his students when he asked them to raise the bar and look at winning at regional’s and going to state, “They might tell me, well gee coach I didn’t even win a match last year and I reply it’s a new year and new expectations so we’re raising the bar. I’d remind them of that when they were seniors and had gone on to win,” Coach Gardner told his final Skyview team at a ceremony in his honor last month as a new season got underway. That season ended with the Panthers capturing the Kachemak Conference Championship. “It’s awesome you always want to go out on top,” said Gardner.
As the season was getting underway an appreciative student body and parents paid tribute to Skyview’s one and only wrestling coach at a ceremony at the school. “Wrestling has been a proud tradition here at Skyview since the day it opened its doors in 1990. I knew I wanted to be a coach for a long time, I love it, but I didn’t think I’d be the only wrestling coach the school would see. I’m not retiring, I’ll be around these kids in one way or another next year and while this is the closing of one chapter it’s the opening of another. We all move on and that’s life, so we smile and go with it”, Gardner told the Dispatch in an interview. At the gathering Gardner said, “I learned early on in my coaching career to surround myself with good help and great parent volunteers, super assistant coaches and managers helping out the team and the administration has always been wonderful here. They’re just great to work with and that is what will be remembered most about Skyview’s history as a high school, as well as the life lessons that hard work does pay off and that life is tough. When something happens that you don’t think is quite fair in a match you have to rebound and learn to do better from the experience,” said Gardner.
The other wrestling theme that Skyview will be remembered for is its bringing girls into the sport, “The girls came to us and we didn’t want to refuse them because we ended up having some of the best girls in the state that became the best in the nation. The Hutchinson family came through and really worked hard along some of the other girls on the teams. They were on the team for the right reasons and that is always is a good thing,” said Gardner. Skyview will become a middle school in the fall of 2014 and coach Gardner will announce where he will be in the next few weeks. Gardner will leave the Panthers as the only coach the team has ever known.