Keith Baker was put in a position he never expected at this stage in Grand Canyon’s move into the Division I classification.
GCU’s athletic director is in the process of hiring a new wrestling coach, with the announcement coming this week, after head coach R.C. LaHaye and assistant Larry Willbanks were dismissed for violation of institutional policy on July 10.
LaHaye started the program in 2007 and took the Lopes national contender in Division II before winning the National Collegiate Wrestling Association title last season.
Baker, of course, wouldn’t comment on the dismissal. The reasoning behind it is known within the wrestling community, but until I have it confirmed officially I won’t print it here.
With that said Baker had to do what was needed to correct the situation.
“I did not expect to be in this situation at this time, but we have to respond to the situation and we thought in the best interest of the student athlete we needed to move forward,” Baker said.
And moving forward they are as GCU is expected to announce the new coach in the coming days.
Reports by The Open Mat's Jason Bryant have it being Jon Sioredas, an assistant at Tennessee Chattanooga.
“We started with the resume process and narrowed it down,” he said. “We have a recommendation going forward and hope to make an announcement by the end of the week.”
The wrestling program is arguably the most successful in the GCU athletic department, but it is still three years away before competing at the Division I level so the Lopes are caught in that “NCAA netherworld of not really having a classification.”
Wrestling has a bit of an advantage in that nearly all recruits get red-shirted and spend five years in the program, meaning the next recruiting class (2015-16) can potentially compete at the Division I level for three seasons.
Until then the Lopes will continue to compete in the NCWA and have a similar schedule to last season when they took on programs like Utah Valley and Northern Colorado while mixing in smaller programs like Embry-Riddle and Colorado Mesa.
“In that respect, I think wrestling has a bit of jump on some of our other sports,” Baker said. “I think there is a great opportunity here because the foundation of success is already there. It has been one of our top sports and that should continue.”
The team’s roster hasn’t been updated since the end of last season so it will be interesting to see how it changes once the transition is made to the new coaching staff.
LaHaye did a good of spreading the wealth of his scholarships as he targeted some of the state’s most successful wrestlers while adding accomplished competitors from the bordering states as well.
His last recruiting class might have been his best in securing Trey Ronayne from Chandler Basha, Gabe Gonzalez and William Olivas from Tucson Sunnyside and Yuma Cibola’s Pierre Gaud along with four-time Washington state champion Bobby Reece and California wrestlers Derrick Jones and Uzo Owuama.
In other words, you can bet the house that the new coach is walking into a well-stocked wrestling room. It will be interesting to see how the new coach does well moving forward.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.