There is no erasing the ugly ending to last season for Coventry wrestling.

There is no erasing the ugly ending to last season for Coventry wrestling.

The hazing scandal that involved multiple wrestlers before one of the team's final regular-season matches shocked a community and created a divide among those who wanted then-coach Keith Shinn to stay and those who agreed with the district's decision not to bring him back.

Even as those debates raged on, the program itself began to move forward. Many of those involved in the hazing incident graduated and district officials began the process of searching for a new head coach.

That search led them to a man who was a key part of the last team to take Coventry where it hopes to return some day. Chris DeShon was a member of the 1996 squad that delivered the Comets' last state title and as he inherited a program in turmoil, he knew it would be a formidable challenge.

"It was clearly important for the district to have someone come in here and make sure those things never happen again," DeShon said of the scandal. "I explained to the board that it's so important to me to see this program succeed that I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."

Before taking over the team, DeShon also sat down with the returning wrestlers and talked about what had transpired and how it could never happen again. He didn't know the specifics of the incident, having heard only the same reports as everyone else, but was quickly impressed by the character and energy of the athletes on his roster.

To ensure that the Comets remain on the right trajectory, DeShon and his staff have drilled down on the details. Technique is a major focus, as is the idea of going about their business the right way on a daily basis.

"Every day at the end of practice, we say a prayer from Vince Lombardi that says you don't just do the right thing once, but you do the right thing all the time," DeShon said. "I remind the kids that wrestling is just one small part of life."

Wrestling may be only one small part of a much bigger world picture, but it is also the most-decorated sport in the history of Coventry Local Schools. Five state championship banners in the gym attest to that fact and even in the wake of the hazing scandal, expectations remained high entering the new season.

Maintaining those standards hasn't been easy. With two transfers forced to sit out the first half of the season due to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, Coventry has been forced to lose multiple weight classes via forfeit through its first 13 dual matches. Even with that handicap, the 10-3 mark the Comets have amassed is a hopeful sign.

That record includes an 8-1 outing at the Big Dog Duals at Dresden Tri-Valley, the final event before senior Mark Weddell and DeShon's son Hunter became eligible following their transfers to the district.

Senior Zack Lake, a state qualifier in track and an All-Portage Trail Conference selection in football, has been one of the top performers for Coventry early in the season with a 19-0 record, with junior Chris Cook (19-3), junior Logan Lake (18-4) and sophomore Brad Holmgren (17-5) all contributing strong starts of their own.

Chris DeShon attributes the fast start partially to the strong base of strength and conditioning that Shinn left behind. That allowed the new coaching staff to focus more on technique, knowing that their wrestlers were already in the habit of doing the necessary work in the weight room.

It was also a learning process for DeShon, who previously coached at St. Vincent-St. Mary and was a part of the Irish's 2002 state championship. He stepped away from coaching last year to watch his son wrestle for North Canton Hoover, but found the transition difficult.

"I was trying to just be a dad and not a coach, but it didn't work out too well," DeShon said with a laugh. "I'm not too good sitting in the stands with a video camera."

When the Coventry post came open, DeShon quickly applied and went through the interview process. Conversations about the direction of the program after the hazing scandal were at the top of the agenda during the process and when he was finally hired, DeShon was eager to get to work.

"It was really interesting at first because I saw how hard our kids worked, but I hadn't seen any of them compete before," DeShon said. "But I am amazed at what a great team I have. These are kids who do the right thing not only on the mat, but in the community. They are good student athletes."

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB