CEDAR RAPIDS – Thursday night marked the changing of the guard. For the first time since 1983 Dick Briggs walked along the edge of the mat without the exclusive title of head coach. Instead, Matt Orton joined Briggs as co-head coaches.
“I just figured, two is better than one, right,” Briggs said.
Orton, a former state champion for Cedar Rapids Jefferson under Briggs, received the baton from his former coach in 2010. He crossed the finish line Thursday, debuting as the co-head coach.
“It’s been great,” Orton said. “I kept in contact with coach Briggs since I wrestled for him in high school here. I think we have a great partnership. We’re working together to make things better and start a new era.”
The J-Hawks began the new era against Waterloo East and Iowa City West. Jefferson beat Waterloo East 71-6, but fell to Iowa City West on the final match by forfeit 35-31.
The J-Hawks trailed the Trojans 29-10, but reeled off five straight wins to take a 31-29 lead. Three of the five came from sophomores Jontel Ware, Kelly May and Luke Sedlacek. Jefferson forfeited the decisive 195 weight class, losing 35-31.
“We’ve got about eight or nine underclassmen in there right now,” Orton said. “And they’re truly our leaders.”
As the team turns to fresh faces, Orton is no stranger to Jefferson. He won a state title for the J-Hawks in 1989. When Briggs brought him back for the 2010-11 season, he knew then, Orton was the heir to his throne.
“I really wanted him in here,” Briggs said. “He’s really a great person, understands wrestling and has a great lifting program. Just all around, he’s a huge benefit to Jefferson.”
Briggs also handed the reins to Orton in the classroom. Orton is the school’s new physical education teacher, a position former position of Briggs. He now teaches in the industrial technology department.
“Well, I don’t know how much I’ve taken over for him,” Orton said. “But it’s been a great transition for me to come back home to Jefferson. It’s been nice.”