How does one of the most storied wrestling coaches in North Carolina history announce his retirement? You surprise the principal and athletics director.

That’s exactly what Coach Buddy Lowery, 66, of Davie County did as he announced his retirement after 43 years to Principal Doyle Nicholson and Athletics Director Mike Absher.

“It’s something, but it’s like, ‘How long do y’all want me to coach?,’ “ Lowery said. “I mean you hear people that coach five, six years, get out. I was thinking, ‘Man, I’ve done it 42, 43 years. It was just time.”

Lowery finished with a record of 913-136-2 and won NCHSAA Class 4-A dual-team state championships in 1994 and 2006. Davie County finished runner-up in 1993, 95, 99, 2005 and 2009. The War Eagles also won the individual Class 4-A state tournament in 1995. They finished runners-up in the individual championship five times — 1987, 88, 89, 93 and 2009.

The War Eagles also won the Central Piedmont 4-A championship 27 times in the 34 years, with a record of 177-7-1 in the conference since leaving the North Piedmont 3-A.

“It definitely caught me off guard,” said Absher. “Not that he and I haven’t had conversations the last two or three years about what his retirement might look like. But at the end of this season and through the spring he was pretty excited about next year and what it might look like.”

Health became a big issue for Lowery for the past two years.

“Right now, I’m sitting here, for the last 10 weeks I’ve been riding around on a scooter because I had a bone removed from my foot (because of a bone spur),” Lowery said. “An Achilles stretched on my other leg. I had one last year.”

Davie County again won the Central Piedmont 4-A this season, but it lost to Northwest Guilford 36-35 in the quarterfinals of the NCHSAA Class 4-A dual-team tournament to finish 33-3.

“It’s something he and I’ve talked a lot about, taking care of yourself,” said Absher. “And sometimes you’ve just got to stop to do that. Good for him that he’s making (his health) a priority. It’s tough. These wrestling coaches live a different world.”

After graduating from East Carolina, Lowery came to Davie County and built a wrestling powerhouse. He retired as a teacher 10 years ago and remained the wrestling coach.

“Hey, I’m just a small part of it,” Lowery said. “I’ve had good assistants that helped me, especially in the last 10 years because I retired 10 years ago. I depended on my assistants a whole bunch.”

Eleven wrestlers have won a total of 15 titles at Davie County, including his Lowery’s son, Patrick.

Absher said the position has been posted and he will make hiring a wrestling coach a priority.

“It’s a great job,” said Absher. “He’s obviously left the program in a great spot. Obviously it’s a very, very important position for us to fill.”

No matter who Davie County decides to hire, Lowery said he would like to be a part of the program.

“I’m not going to get away from it,” he said. “I don’t want to be that type that, I ain’t going to be there every day, but I don’t know, it depends on who they hire.”

Replacing a coach that went 66-28 in NCHSAA Class 4-A dual-team tournament matches since the tournament started in 1997, as well as having 44 wrestlers who have won at least 100 matches won’t be easy.

“It’s kind of one of those things, we built this monster, now we’ve got to feed it,” said Lowery.

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