Wrestling has been a part of Ed Barrett's life since his father, Ed, brought him to Monument Mountain High School practices. The younger Barrett was a wrestler and 1991 Monument graduate, then served as the Spartans' coach for nine years.
When he decided to leave coaching following his son Eddie's birth five years ago, Barrett, 39, knew he still had to be involved in wrestling.
"I knew the time commitment [for coaching] at that point would be more than I was willing to make," Barrett said.
Larry Consolini, himself a former Monument wrestler and the current head of wrestling referees in Berkshire County, had just the job for Barrett.
"[Consolini] said, ‘Have you ever thought of refereeing?' " Barrett said.
Barrett's only officiating experience before that was overseeing youth matches after high school meets in the 1990s. Still, the offer intrigued him, and Consolini knew Barrett still had the sport "in his blood."
Consolini has been in charge of the county's wrestling officials for approximately 25 years, and wrestled for both Barrett's father Ed and fellow county referee Charlie Sanzone at Monument. He knows from experience that the transition from wrestler or coach to official is a difficult one, but noted Barrett has adapted well the last four years.
The toughest thing for any new ref to pick up, Consolini said, is consistency.
"Making sure the calls are always the same," he said. "Make sure you're calling stalling the same way. Making sure your pin counts are two seconds. Staying up with the different rule changes as they come along."
The first event Barrett refereed was the Bay State Games' summer event in Boston. He'd also been to various training sessions, taking in every pointer he could hear from experienced officials.
One of the most important things for Barrett to learn, he said, was staying close to the action and staying back at the same time.
"Sometimes, you're better served being a couple of steps removed," Barrett said, comparing it to watching a television from a wider angle instead of getting closer to the screen.
Of course, being that Barrett was Monument's wrestling coach within the last five years, he was perhaps the most aware of the need for objectivity. He called a few Spartan matches in invitational tournaments in his first year wearing stripes, and oversaw a Monument dual for the first time in his second full year.
"It was tough," he said. "Other than the first time I ever stepped on a mat, I was the most aware of the role I was playing that night."
Barrett officiated matches at last week's Monument-Mount Greylock dual in Williamstown, which Greylock won 46-26.
Mounties coach Ray Miro, who spent some time as a Vermont referee during his 32 years coaching the sport, knows firsthand that Barrett's job isn't an easy one. The coach said he likes to tell referees, "I expect you to be perfect when my wrestlers are perfect, and that's never going to happen."
"It's always easier to be on the outside than [if] you're up close on the action," Miro said. "I didn't agree with every call he made last week, but that doesn't mean I have to go crazy on him about stuff. I've been at it for a long time. You try not to make it personal."
Perhaps that's what makes referees like Barrett, Sanzone and fellow ref Scott Annand perfect for the job: As former coaches, all three men had to develop thick skins before they ever put on striped jerseys.
"You learned to let some things go as an official, in terms of how coaches act, and where to draw the line," Consolini said. "I think all the guys who work for me know where that line is."
It also helps that the coaches-turned-refs naturally have a good rapport with the current coaches in the Berkshires. As a coach, Barrett said he enjoyed spending time around the other coaches and wrestlers in the county, and that hasn't changed.
"I think it's a huge benefit to me that the coaches in Berkshire County are fantastic," Barrett said. "They're always approachable and willing to talk to you."
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