CEDAR RAPIDS – Matt Orton won a state title for Cedar Rapids Jefferson wrestling coach Dick Briggs in 1989.
The coach-athlete relationship has officially changed to peer status.
Briggs and Orton confirmed Wednesday that Orton will be co-head coach alongside Briggs for the 2012-13 season. Orton joined the program as an assistant for the 2010-11 season.
“I’m very happy,” Briggs told The Gazette on Wednesday. “Matt is a fabulous coach. He’s got excellent technique and can get the best out of everyone.
“Two heads are better than one, right?”
Orton was the second state champion for Briggs, capturing the Class 3A 135-pound title three weights after teammate Marc Chase won the 119-pound crown that year. He has been an assistant to Briggs the last two seasons. Orton wrestled for the J-Hawks in the heyday of the program, and has helped the program succeed again, crowning a state champion in Conner Herman, who won the 2011 state 215-pound title.
The J-Hawks were 12-6 in duals last season, including a 9-4 Mississippi Valley Conference mark.
“It’s been fun to work with him in a different capacity,” Orton said. “I’m pretty sure we have a mutual respect for each other and all we’ve been through, trying to build it back up again. It’s been fun.”
Orton, who wrestled at Southwest Missouri State, returned to the school as a teacher for the 2011-12 school year. He teaches physical education at Jefferson, focusing on strength and conditioning. Orton previously taught and coached at Iowa City West, assisting the Trojans wrestling program for six years. Before West, Orton served as an assistant for nine years at St. Charles (Mo.) West High School.
He is at home at Jefferson.
“I have some definite ties to Jefferson and a vested interest in seeing it return to where it used to be,” Orton said. “I love Jefferson High School, going to school here and my entire family all went or go to school here. The ownership in the school and just wanting to see it be successful.”
Orton has a strong rapport with students and athletes. Briggs praised the work he has done in the classroom as well as athletics. He is a perfect fit for the program and the school.
“He has a real connection with kids,” Briggs said. “He’s the one they want to be around and succeed for.”
Briggs is the elder statesman among MVC coaches. The 56-year-old coach, who also was a Jefferson wrestler in the 1970′s, has led the J-Hawks for 30 years and will coach his 33rd total for 2012-13.
Orton has aspirations to replace Briggs when the veteran coach decides to call it quits. This move, however, was in the works since Briggs added Orton to the staff.
“For sure,” said Briggs, whose son, Kyle, is a freshman at Jefferson and expects to wrestle. “I wanted to get it handed over to someone with good hands. He certainly is capable.”
Orton has seen a number of changes over the years, but he doesn’t see many changes coming with the promotion. His responsibilities and relationship with Briggs likely will remain the same. They shared most of the daily duties already.
“For me, it’s more of a title than anything,” Orton said. “I don’t think my role will change much. I’m sure there’s some administrative stuff I haven’t been doing, but I may take up as we go along. Other than that, things will stay pretty similar.”