It’s been a decade since Charlie Higdon left Woodland. The former head wrestling coach for the Wildcats has since coached and taught at Cherokee, Etowah and Gilmer.
Now, Higdon is returning to Woodland after being hired to fill the newly created position of strength and conditioning coordinator.
“This is a dream opportunity for me,” he said, “and I’m really, really excited about it.”
Higdon initially applied for a job in the school’s science department. However, his experience and prior relationships with Woodland athletic director John Howard and new athletic coordinator (and current wrestling coach) Adrian Tramutola allowed him to become the first person to fill the role for the Wildcats.
A veteran coach with an extensive background in exercise science and nutrition, Higdon truly is the ideal candidate for the job.
“First and foremost, he’s a man of character,” Howard said of Higdon. “He did a tremendous job when he was here before, building relationships with the kids, the parents and the community. He’s an extremely intense guy, which is perfect for the weight room. He has the background knowledge, being in athletics himself, coaching for years and having the science background of knowing about the physical body and nutrition.
“He really is kind of the complete package when it comes to what we would be looking for for that position, because it’s not just about lifting weights. We want somebody in there to steer them in the right direction and help them out with nutrition, with weights, with flexibility and with conditioning. He checks off all those boxes.”
Higdon is looking forward to working with what he called “a good group of people.” A lot of his time initially will be spent collaborating with Woodland’s coaches to help tailor programs to the individual sports.
“I can help work with people; I can help put ideas together,” Higdon said. “I have a lot of my own ideas. I’ve researched this stuff my whole life. … Being able to actually put that research into practice, I’m really excited about that.”
Howard admitted the Wildcats haven’t necessarily been on the cutting edge recently as far as strength and conditioning is concerned. His hope is that Higdon will be able to help modernize the tactics Woodland uses to build up its athletes.
“Over the years, we kind of had the mindset where we were going to have one program that all of our athletes did,” Howard said. “With the specialization in sports and trying to be more sport specific, we probably need to adjust a little bit and get with the times. We’re looking to do more — not really individual workouts — workouts designed more towards particular sports.
“I’ve asked him to get with each of our coaches, and they’re going to develop what they feel like is the best workouts and timelines for the weight room, conditioning and nutrition.”
Higdon certainly seems up to the challenge.
“You should meet the kids’ needs in whatever they are,” he said. “They will adapt to whatever stimuli you give them. So what are we trying to make them adapt to? That’s going to be different for every kid. … Adapting those things, looking at different workouts and how we can serve those different populations. Honestly, that’s the exciting part of it, the mad scientist in there, trying to make kids better.”
A former standout wrestler in high school in Florida, Higdon signed with Clemson. When the school dropped its wrestling program in 1995, he transferred to Carson-Newman, where he became an all-American. After spending time as a graduate assistant for an extremely successful wrestling program at University of the Cumberlands, Higdon turned his focus to teaching and coaching at the high school level.
He left Woodland in 2010 but made sure the program was in good hands by helping secure the talents of Tramutola, who has led the Wildcats to five state championships (three duals, two traditional) since taking over.
Higdon had quite a bit of success the past two years at Gilmer, as the wrestling program placed second in Class 4A in three out of four state tournaments in that time. At Etowah in Woodstock, he led the Eagles to a 6A runner-up finish in 2015 and assisted on the football squad that reached the state semifinals in 2014. He coached Baltimore Ravens fullback Bronson Rechsteiner in both sports at Etowah.
But Higdon understands the same workouts he put Rechsteiner through wouldn’t make sense for a cross country runner, for instance. That being said, Higdon does believe the positive aspects of his work can improve any athlete’s physical, mental and even educational well-being.
“I like the idea of working with different kids and different skillsets,” he said. “… Trying to make things applicable and trying to make things better. Seeing people be successful and knowing you were a part of that is really rewarding.”
While Howard is definitely excited about bringing Higdon back into the fold at Woodland, he’s also thrilled to be able to see Tramutola promoted from within for the athletic coordinator position.
“Again, a perfect storm for me,” Howard said. “He’s right here. I can hire from within, and he already knows everything that’s going to be asked of him.
“He’s brings another dynamic. He’s extremely creative when it comes to technology, graphic design and those things that can really enhance our school and our athletic programs that we hope to take advantage of.”
There will be some administrative-type duties (i.e. paperwork) that will be a portion of Tramutola’s job. Howard, though, also sees the role offering assistance in community outreach initiatives and development of an athletic leadership group within the school.
Overall, Howard just appreciates the value the Bartow County School System has placed on athletics, and he hopes it continues.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “Between the two new positions and the facility upgrades, [superintendent] Dr. [Phillip] Page, the school board and leadership team have made a commitment [to athletics]. … It’s just nice to have support in that area.”