ELO football, wrestling teams come to compromise

EAST LIVERPOOL – What one coach called a “civil war” over use of the high school wrestling room dominated the public session of Monday night’s city school board meeting.

Head football coach Rick Prescott got the ball rolling in a room packed with wrestling and football supporters, reading from a prepared statement in which he said, had he known two years ago when the football team started using the wrestling room “that there would be a civil war amongst the two programs, I would had never opened that door.”

At issue is the community/ wrestling room built in the mid-1980s, partly with Community Development Block Grant funding, school funding and a promissory note acquired by 11 private individuals who supported the wrestling program.

According to one of those individuals, David Hager, father of current head wrestling coach Chad Hager, although the room became school property once built, it was with stipulations in place.

Among those, he said, was that the high school wrestling program got first dibs on using the facility, followed by the junior high and then the Potter Mites.

There was some debate between David Hager and board member Richard Wolf on whether the loan signed by supporters was for $10,000 or $100,000, and board officials did not have documentation on hand last night to make that determination.

Prescott said the football team has used the room over the past two years as a plyometric room, jump stretch area and to work on core strength and for injury prevention just as coaches had before he took over the program.

Being proactive, he said, the team rolled up the mats prior to using the room so as not to damage them, reminding the board that he is a former wrestler still passionate about the sport who was taught by his coach Rich Wright to properly care for a wrestling room.

Players took off their shoes, never put weights on the mats or used plyometric boxes, according to Prescott.

He said after learning of the disdain the wrestling team had for his team’s use of the facility, he only used it two days this year and informed the board that, “We as a program are choosing to move on. We are no longer going to push for the use of the wrestling room.”

Instead, Prescott asked for the board’s help in finding alternate space and a small set of gym mats, suggesting the team could use the area behind the bleachers in Potter Fieldhouse.

“We are all Potters and we are all here for the betterment of the blue and white, not just the football or wrestling team,” he said.

Hager agreed with Prescott that he does not want any friction between the teams but said two things are important to have a successful program: Lifting and mat time.

Unlike the football team, however, Hager said wrestlers are “unable to juggle where we go. We needed those mats and only had those certain times (to use them).” He also said the Potter Mites need to be included in the use of the facility.

Saying he has no problem with the football team using the facility, Hager said the wrestlers should, however, get it whenever they need it.

Hager and others also said the wrestling room has not been maintained since its construction, and he produced more than 60 photographs he said showed damaged wall mats, broken floor tiles and other damage.

Wolf, who was among those who helped construct the facility, said there has been no maintenance on it and that a fire alarm to which Hager referred during his comments has not worked since 1983 when he (Wolf) “rigged it” not to ring due to complaints of wrestlers setting it off.

Assistant wrestling coaches Rich Shilling and John Drumm also addressed the board with similar complaints and suggestions.

Board member Scott Dieringer said the issue should “never have made it this far,” referring to the board, saying it should have been taken care of between the coaches and administration.

“We have enough trouble, you only have to look (at the Patterson Field project) to see that,” Dieringer said, adding he does not believe the wrestling room has been torn up by either wrestlers or football players but by 30 years of non-maintenance.

Superintendent James Herring met with Hager, Prescott, athletic director Bob Shansky and principal Randy Taylor earlier in the day to discuss the issue, and said after the meeting he believes scheduling problems have been worked out.