Season 4, Column 6: Shut-downs, Openings, and the Socon in Spring

[IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has been edited at the Authors choice for 2 reasons:significantly greater distribution opportunity and improved adherence to current professional writing standards. IN NO WAY does the author purport to still be a media professional. However, guidance towards those standards by a professional is hereby acknowledged and appreciated for all the above mentioned factors and more. TEC)

The news from both Palo Alto and Tokyo took a dark turn this past fortnite. While 36 Sports Strong, the group of Stanford alums and fans, remained hopeful that the Schools President and Board are actually still in listen and not kill mode, a separate group has opted to retain counsel. Esteemed Uber-Lawyer Jeffrey Kessler is representing 8 of the 11 soon to disappear Stanford sports teams in their efforts to remain a key part of the Palo Alto experience. Separately, barrister Rebecca Peterson-Fisher filed suit for the women’s teams under the axe.(1) There’s little hope at this point that any group involved in this mess will find a happy place, but perhaps more eyes will be opened. Opened to the terrible truth that even the most well known and outwardly respected of institutions of higher education can and will worship at the Green Altar before and above anything else.

Speaking of money, don’t let anyone say that the Lords of the Rings aren’t just a little bit concerned about Japans 3 per cent Covid 19 vaccination rate. And the infection spike at the site of their already delayed little international soiree. Its already a certainty that there’ll be little pomp and less circumstance with Tokyo 2021. NO opening ceremonies, no international fans, and no athletes intermingling for fun and, well, fun. Perhaps all those surplus packages of multi colored condoms will help the IOC make up some of that lost cash flow.

Well, well, well, there seems to be a fairly large number of fairly successful staffs undergoing some alteration. Perhaps you have noticed. First piqueing the Scribes interests was yet another opening at Lehigh. The authors first love team had been rocking for years under the steady tutelage of Pat Santoro. For over a decade the steely eyed, steady, dynamically successful trio of Santoro and Associates Brad Dillon and John Hughes rocked the Mountain Hawks coaching chairs. Then in December 2019 Hughes, in the first part of what was his 12th year on staff, said “no mas” and exited stage left. It actually may have been Stage “Lock”, as a perusal of Hughes Facebook resume led with this objective: “To obtain a full time position within Lock Haven University as the next Head Wrestling Coach of the Bald Eagles”. Plaudits, love and best wishes were issued all around upon Hughes departure, though his interest in the job held then and still by Scott Moore was not general knowledge. Then, shortly after this past season, one in which Lehigh went without an All American for the first time since 2009, the “Help Wanted” sign went up again in Bethlehem, PA. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

After 3 fine seasons working with Damion Hahns SDSU Jackrabbits, Volunteer Assistant Coach Chris Dardanes has taken a HS Coaching position in Iowa.(2) Dardanes, a 3x All American for Minnesota out of the famous Oak Park River Forest (IL) program, came to SDSU with former Cornell 4xAA and National Champ Cam Simaz when Hahn took over the JackRabbits program in the summer of 2018. Dardanes was most recently in IA with his twin brother Nick when both spent 2 years competing for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. This is the first departure from Hahns staff since the long time Cornell assistant became the head coach in Brookings. The Jackrabbits dynamic Athletic Director Justin Sell is a dream administrator for Olympic Sports(3). Its likely another very high quality assistant is headed SDSUs way if they’re not there already.

Army West Points Kevin Ward is on the hunt for another good man for the Long Grey Lines coaching staff. Now 8 seasons in, Ward saw his teams multi year streak of “STAR Match” victories over ultimate rival Navy come to a screeching halt last season.(4) Still, the Cadets took their 2nd straight 3rd place finish at the extremely tough E.I.W.A. tournament and sent 6 Cadets to the NCAAs. Many of the Black Knights losses there came to eventual All Americans or National Champions, no shame in that. Perhaps the tweak a new assistant can bring will have Army back on the NCAA podium and ready to reclaim “STAR Match” bragging rights. Just wish they’d go back to the All Academy Championships.

A 2 decade plus run had its final flowering in Bloomington back in 2018 as loooong time Indiana Head Coach Duane Goldman stepped aside. Stepping in, assistant, former Hoosiers National Champ, and homegrown talent Angel Escobedo. New Coach, new staff, new expectations, and the I-U wrestling family(5) welcomed former 4 time Wisconsin AA Isaac Jordan along with Jason Tsirtsis. Tsirtsis was a RARE 4x Indiana HS champ, a 2X AA & a National Champ at Northwestern who garnered a 3rd AA honor in his last year at Arizona State. There’s talent to be had in state and in the region, but trying to wrestle up the Big 10 ladder is a task Sisyphus would probably pass on. The first 3 seasons of the Escobedo regime have hinted at future success and also have starkly shown it’s going to be a long slog. Jordan and Tsirtsis flip flopped titles over the past 2 campaigns. In and gone the first 2 years was Associate Head Coach Mike Dixon, another former I-U mat star who’s now the Director of Wrestling and Enrichment at Beat the Streets Chicago. Sam Wendland joined the revolving staff last year. Who’s coming in and who, if anyone, they’re replacing this season, is as yet unanswered.

SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON

The Scribes unabashedly biased towards the bastion of Southern Wrestling, the centrepoint and anchor of our sport in the Deep South. Fitting the theme of this column, let’s make mention of the openings at both the Citadel and Appalachian State. In Charleston 2nd year Citadel Head Coach Ryan LeBlanc, an App State staff alum, is looking for a new Grad Assistant. Unimpeachable sources promise a timely update. In Boone, NC, BHHHC(6) John Mark Bentley is searching for a new staff member. Just a year ago LeBlanc took his leave for a top position at a conference competitor and fellow App St. Assistant Josh Roosa went North to become Head Coach at Kings (PA) College. So, in came former Kent St 3x AA Ian Miller (7) and Loch Haven 2020 grad D.J. Fehlman. Waiting to hear who, if anyone, is headed down the Mountain.

Meanwhile in Chattanooga, the Scribes beloved Mocs recently had to deal with the death of a team member. Staying on track is the only way to process tragedy, and 6 UTC wrestlers have diplomas in hand to show they did just that. Hunter Fortner, Fabian Gutierrez, Aidan Murphy, Drew Nicholson, Ryan Resnick and Tanner Smith finished their undergrad work, preparing them for the next step. Thanks to the Covid 19 Pandemic, for all of them that step can be back on the mat as the NCAA ruled this past season did not count towards eligibility. Fabian and Drew are multi year starters. Hunter and Tanner would have been, but both went out with season ending injuries early on. ALL sorts of internal and external factors are at play here. Also noteworthy was the announcing of former UTC 4X SoCon champ Nick Soto (2X FHSAA champ for Springstead, FL, just sayin) as the head coach at Ft. Lauderdales private Keiser University. One blast from the past Mocs note: the late, great Upperweight Pezvean “Pez” Whatley, 2x conference finalist for UTC, made the WWE Legacy Hall of Fame for his quarter century pro career.

Gardner-Webb just finished up a nice little CashMoney event as their Bulldog Bash brought in the goods for Coach Daniel Elliotts pack of Runnin’ Dogs. Heading out of Boiling Springs, Que Lastima, is the talented GA Roderick Davis. Davis did his last mat season at G-W after a fine career for NC State. Now the newly minted wrestler/coach/Grad entepreneur heads to Charlotte to pursue business interests. If you’re down for the dirty work, day in and day out, that a GA does, there just may be a “hot” spot open in Boiling Springs. Not sayin. Just sayin.

Requests for hot new takes/potential features/future star stuff news are/will be in the pipeline to Bellarmine, Campbell, VMI, Davidson, and Presbyterian. Updates soon, SoCon fans!

See you in next week!

Ted Carreras

(1) Excellent and in-depth reporting on the entirety of the Stanford situation by Sofia Scekic and Cameron Ehsan can be found in the Stanford Daily.

(2) kudos to multi tasked and equally multi talented SDSU Assistant AD Jason Hove, who squeezed in a few enlightening moments for the author concerning the Jackrabbits staff opening.

(3) Hey Stanford, fire up your Human Bioengineering dept. and clone the JackRabbits AD. Market THAT process and you’d make up the “deficit” you’re STILL stating as the reason you cut wrestling and 10 other sports and solve another problem at the same time.

(4) Coincidentally, last season was the first in the Navy Head Coaching chair for Cary Kolat. Results not so much a coincidence, it says here.

(5) Swear by Bobby Knights sweater this is a thing. In fact, Indiana has one of the toughest post seasons in HS wrestling. Its an ALL-IN, 1 size fits all tournament for every school in the state, 3 full rounds of preliminaries, each one a week after the other. Only the Top 4 advance each time before the 4th & final competition plays out. You won Indiana, you WON something.

(6) Bald Headed Hero Head Coach. Five years of statistical analysis AND keen observation lead to this simple fact: If your Coach flaunts his dome, the team brings wins home.

(7) The magnificently talented Millers travels and travails were highlighted in the Between Seasons, Column 31 edition of this blog, dated 10/8/2020