TEMPERANCE -- At the conclusion of recent high school wrestling seasons, Bedford coach Denny Brighton often contemplated hanging up his whistle for the final time in his brilliant career, as those exhausting weekends holed up in tiny, sweaty gymnasiums were beginning to get old.
But "as the summer goes on, I feel rejuvenated," Brighton said.
Brighton, 55, does not feel rejuvenated this summer. So he's retiring.
At a team meeting Sunday evening, Brighton announced he is done coaching after putting in 30 years of service between his alma mater Bedford (16 seasons) and Whitmer (14).
"This year, the feelings lingered longer and longer," Brighton said. "I guess as they say, you know when it's time."
Also retiring is assistant coach Dan Ditty, who has been on Brighton's staff at Bedford since the beginning. Brighton and Ditty were high school teammates and together the duo realized great success after accepting the baton in 1995 from their coach, Bill Regnier.
Brighton, a two-time state champion and a NCAA runner-up in 1977 for Michigan State, amassed 412 dual meet wins over the last 16 seasons, an average of about 26 per winter. During that span he led two teams to state championships, in 1999 and 2001, and three others to runner-up finishes. Six wrestlers won state titles under Brighton, and 68 were state place winners.
As either a wrestler or coach, Brighton has been involved in the sport for 43 of his 55 years.
"I think I'm going to have to walk away completely for a little bit just to make that break," he said. "Then, maybe, I can come back and watch, or do something. I don't know."
Aside from exhaustion, Brighton said he's retiring because he believes his effectiveness as a coach is lacking compared to the impact he had earlier in his career, and because he wishes to spend more time with his long-time wife, Janette. He will continue his job as a teacher at Bedford High School.
"It's time to do some things she likes to do instead of dragging her to a gym every Saturday," he said.
A search to identify a coach capable of continuing the program's sterling tradition will not be easy, said Bedford athletic director Mark German. Promoting from within the program is a possibility, "but I don't know for sure yet."
Whoever German appoints coach will inherit a team capable of achieving immediate success. Junior Mitchel Rogaliner and senior Logan Rimmer were state runner-ups this spring, and senior Bryan Smith was fifth. The Mules were champions at the league and district meets.
"We're going to post it and try to find the best person possible to fill it, which will be very, very difficult because replacing someone of coach Brighton's quality is going to be almost impossible," German said.
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