Parker retires from Pelham wrestling

Growing up, Robert Parker could look to the hill above his house and watch Pelham High School’s construction. While, he never received the chance to attend the school there, Parker served the past 21 years helping to build the sport of wrestling at Pelham and across Shelby County until his retirement May 22.

During Parker’s 29 years in education, he coached baseball, football, basketball and softball at various schools, but wrestling has become his niche.

“We get kids that can’t fit in anywhere else,” Parker said of the sport. “I wanted them all to be successful.”

While Parker enjoyed finding a role on the same team for a scrawny 112-pound kid and a 290-pound football lineman, he also enjoyed spreading the sport through Shelby County and the state.

“I saw what it did for the kids at our school,” Parker said. “I knew what it would do for other schools. People helped us get started, and it was like paying it forward.”

Programs such as Chelsea and Thompson received help from Parker when programs began.

Parker got his start with wrestling as an assistant for Bob Lavett, who is now Pelham’s principal.

“Bob’s done a great job, and he’ll be missed,” Lavett said. “He increased participation and led this program to one of the best programs in the state … It’s been a good thing for Pelham.”

Five athletes won a state championship under Parker’s direction at Pelham.

He will retire from the Alabama school system and move this month to Savannah, Ga., because of a job opportunity his wife, Mary Beth, has at a law firm. He hopes to find a teaching and coaching position in Savannah.

Parker said the move is because it’s time to give back to his family after their long-time support of his coaching career.

“I wanted to do this for (Mary Beth) and give (my kids) chance to go to Savannah and live. It’s a great place to be,” Parker said. “They have made this (career) all worth while and made it memorable. I thank each and every one of them for that.”