Shortly after his Parkersburg South wrestling team won its fourth straight Class AAA state championship in February, veteran coach Paul Jackson announced he was resigning as the head coach of the Patriots' program, which has won the state championship 17 of the last 30 years.
Nine of those titles came under Jackson, who owns more state championships than any wrestling coach in Class AAA history. It's only natural that Parkersburg South administrators -in their search to replace Jackson -would look within his coaching staff.
Yet, when the position was posted the only one of Jackson's assistant coaches to apply to be his successor was Gary Porter, who does not have a teaching degree and only could be hired if no teacher applied. When four educators applied for the job, Porter automatically was eliminated from consideration and was not even granted an interview since he could not legally be hired.
After conducting interviews with the other applicants -interviews during which an assistant superintendent of schools sat in -South Athletics Director Rick Leach decided the best thing he could do for the Patriot wrestling program was to recommend the hiring of Donna Dixon, a teacher at the school whose husband Kevin is an assistant coach and whose son Matt was a sophomore member of the Patriots championship team last winter. Dixon indicated she would keep the coaching staff intact.
But administrators at the Wood County Board of Education have at least temporarily blocked that appointment, further prolonging the hiring of a wrestling coach.
The pawns in this game being played by adults are the young men who eat, live, breathe and sleep South wrestling and have made the program the state's perennial power. I talked with one senior-to-be member of the Patriots and he expressed some frustration about the situation. One South wrestler posted on a public forum he would like to know who the coach is going to be so he can decide where he is going to school.
Nothing says Parkersburg South like the wrestling program. The school's athletic facility is named after its patriarch and first head coach, Rod Oldham. It's the one sport in which South immediately was competitive. It's the one sport that South has dominated.
Now, the program is in turmoil. It has no leadership and no direction. That's a shame for this group of wrestlers can make state history by becoming the first team to win five consecutive Class AAA state titles. For that to happen, the wrestlers will have to not only stay together, but the new coaching staff is going to have to maintain the performance standards set by the previous group of coaches.
This has been a running, almost daily soap opera since Jackson resigned. There is intense public interest in the position, which is the most high-profile wrestling job in the state. I realized its impact when I started having more people ask me about the South wrestling position than how the Mountaineers were going to do this football season, which always has been the most asked question in this sports-crazed community.
It's more than past time for this issue to be resolved. Until then, there will be only be losers and that's a word no one ever has or ever wants to associate with Parkersburg South wrestling.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org