STEUBENVILLE — Whereas Steubenville Excessive Faculty is extensively recognized for its soccer program, Mike Blackburn did his finest to turnaround the Massive Crimson wrestling program.
In 16 seasons as the top coach, Blackburn’s groups gained 273 twin meets, eight Ohio Valley Athletic Convention Invoice Hinegardner Class 4A and 5A Twin Meet Match championships, together with 5 OVAC Ron Mauck Class 4A titles and one total crown.
Blackburn lately introduced that he’s stepping down as the top coach to spend extra time together with his household, however he’s not stepping away from this system he helped to resurrect. He’ll function an assistant to new head coach Lucas Huffman, who has been by Blackburn’s facet for the final 12 campaigns.
“We’ve been fairly blessed with numerous nice coaches and a few fairly superb children, too,” Blackburn stated of his time at Massive Crimson. “We had a rocky begin to start with once I got here in right here with making an attempt to rebuild every thing. From Ralph Petrella up we’ve had some good children to assist kick-start this system.
“As soon as we obtained it rolling, we had some unbelievable wrestlers and a few unbelievable younger males come by means of right here,” he added. “The help the varsity provides for athletics and wrestling, is superb. We’re positively a soccer college, however we’ve all the time had help for the wrestling group.
“We’re like a household, as nicely,” Blackburn continued. “If the children have gone away to varsity they all the time come again and need to work out within the (wrestling) room. The youngsters that keep round right here and work, they’re the identical manner. It’s good to have children like that who speak to you, talk with you by e-mail or textual content, and simply need to be round as a result of they know they have been a part of one thing particular right here.”
Below Blackburn’s tutelage, roughly 25-30 Massive Crimson wrestlers have went on to additional their tutorial and athletic careers on the collegiate degree, with most of them competing on the D-I and D-II.
“We have been lucky sufficient to have some good wrestlers that needed to proceed their careers and most of them had a wide array of colleges to pick from,” Blackburn famous. “They weren’t solely good wrestlers, however good college students, as nicely.”
If he has one remorse throughout his elongated tenure at Massive Crimson, it’s not having a single state champion.
“We had seven within the finals. There have been a pair that we thought might’ve and possibly ought to’ve gained state titles,” Blackburn stated in recalling Division II state championship matches involving Tariq Wilson and Greg Moray proper off the highest of his head. “Tariq simply didn’t wrestle like he was able to the one 12 months and Greg was profitable by some extent late within the match solely to get referred to as for stalling after which dropping in time beyond regulation.”
One other particular person who had a reliable shot at a state title was Branko Busick.
“He obtained harm whereas profitable within the quarterfinals and couldn’t proceed,” Blackburn remembered. “He would have gained a state title.”
Steubenville additionally gained seven Division II sectional championships, a pair of Jap District titles and have been district runnersup 5 instances. They have been additionally Division II Regional Twin kingpins in 2016 and 2021, in addition to state semifinalists these two years. Blackburn coached 61 sectional titlists, 22 district champs and had 30 state placers. He was twice named D-II Coach of the Yr and OVAC Class 4A Coach of the Yr 5 instances, whereas being a three-time finalist for the OVAC Invoice Van Horne Coach of the Yr award.
The 2012 Massive Crimson group is the one college to defeat Parkersburg South within the OVAC Ron Mauck Match.
The cabinet is much from naked as Steubenville returns eight district qualifiers and one state qualifier from 2020-21.
“We’re nonetheless going to roll like we all the time have. He’s been round without end and has an awesome wrestling information,” Blackburn stated of Huffman who graduated from River Excessive Faculty and West Liberty College “He’s able to go. We’re going to get higher and be even higher down the highway.”
Huffman can’t look ahead to his first head teaching gig.
“I’m actually excited to get began. I’ve positively obtained some massive sneakers to fill as a result of Mike has achieved a beautiful job with this system since he took it over,” Huffman stated. “I’m simply glad to be part of it.
“Simply because we’re switching job titles, our mission nonetheless stays the identical,” Huffman careworn. “We need to put an excellent product out on the mat; we need to educate these children to be respectful; and we wish them to excel within the classroom.”
Huffman has fairly a formidable resume on the mat, each scholastically and collegiately.
He was a three-time state qualifier throughout his days at River. He was a state runnerup at 112 kilos his junior season and completed fifth as a senior. He positioned all 4 years on the OVACs, ending first as a junior and second as a senior. He was sixth as a freshman earlier than enhancing a spot as a sophomore.
A four-year starter for the Hilltoppers at 125 kilos, he capped his school profession as a nationwide qualifier in 2008.
Ian Whittington will stay on the employees.
“Ian is nice with the children. He has a wealth of data of the game,” Huffman stated.
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