PARKERSBURG - For the first time since Paul Jackson announced his retirement in March, Parkersburg South has a head wrestling coach.
By a 4-to-1 vote, members of the Wood County Board of Education approved the recommendation of South administrators to name Donna Dixon as the new leader of the Patriots.
Supporting the motion were board president Tim Yeater, John Marlow, Lawrence Hasbargen and Tad Wilson.
The lone dissenting vote came from Jim Fox.
The vote came more than 2 hours after the start of Tuesday's meeting, which saw approximately 20 audience members address the board on various topics, with talk of the coaching position dominating the discussion.
"I am extremely relieved,'' Dixon said following the vote. "I am ready to get South wrestling prepared to win that fifth straight state title."
Earlier, Dixon offered an impassioned plea of her candidacy for the position. Dixon reviewed both her academic background as well as all the time she has spent traveling to and attending wrestling matches as well as time spent in the wrestling room.
She noted among other accomplishments she had attended a clinic by the legendary Dan Gable.
"I have run and organized many wrestling tournaments,'' she said. "I know wrestling. I have a clear vision for this program."
When Dixon completed her statement, she was greeted with a standing ovation by those who came to support her.
That included 11 members of the South wrestling team who took the podium together to voice their approval for Dixon.
Jake Alexander spoke for the group, saying, "We are here to support the South administration and the choice they made."
Dixon was one of five persons to apply for the position, and one of four teachers who was granted an interview.
Former coach Dan Clevenger, who wanted to return to the Patriot helm, talked to the wrestlers from the podium.
"I will coach you to the best of my ability," he said. "I understand you want to support your coaches. Is it OK if I stand up for myself?"
Once the school board voted, Clevenger stuck out his hand to Mrs. Dixon and told her, "No hard feelings."
Both candidates had passionate supporters speak to the board.
Jenny Sullivan, who serves as scorekeeper, publicity director and wears many other hats for the South program, voiced her support for Dixon.
"The legendary Rod Oldham was hired as the wrestling coach at Parkersburg South without ever wrestling a day in his life," she said.
"Donna can handle the administrative duties and leave the technical aspects to the assistant coaches," she said.
South's assistants -who include Dixon's husband, Kevin, as well as Gary and Chad Porter, David Jeffrey and Dean Moore - played a major role in the debate. One of Dixon's selling points was she would attempt to keep coach Jackson's staff together while Clevenger said he would invite some of its members to join him.
Patrick Miller, a former wrestler under Clevenger, said the coach instilled in him the principals of respect, commitment and integrity. "I highly recommend Dan Clevenger," he said.
The two South administrators who were responsible for Dixon's appointment - Principal Tom Eschbacher and Athletics Director Rick Leach - were on hand to watch their recommendation be approved.
"The important thing," said Fox, "is to come together as a team and as a community. It is OK to disagree."
Marlow said he wished there was as much concern over the hiring of teachers as the wrestling position. Marlow said if the law allowed lay coaches to be hired over teachers he would have no problem naming Gary Porter as the new coach.
Marlow had submitted a series of questions to South administrators regarding the hiring process they used.
Satisfied with their responses, he supported the appointment.
Wilson said he appreciated the passion and the amount of the feedback board members received.
Hasbargen said he has lived in south Parkersburg for 44 years and knew both of the leading candidates, about whom he talked glowingly.
"I am hopeful and believe we are doing what is in the best interest of the students," he said.