There were tears Thursday night — from the coaches and the athletes — when Southridge wrestling coach Steve Isley announced he was stepping down.
“That was the hardest part,” he said. “When I told the kids last night, I had tears in my eyes. I had a kid text me afterward, telling me how much I meant to him.”
“In an effort to win and get better, we have been coaching nine months out of the year,” Isley said. “It was a massive amount of time away from my family. I was missing my own daughter’s stuff to go to wrestling tournaments. After talking to my wife (Mary) and our daughter (Faith), it was the right choice for me and my family to resign.”
Isley was an assistant for four years before taking over the program two years ago. The Suns have a large group of wrestlers graduating this spring, but three of the top guys — Jevon Johnson, Mikael Failor and Atsamaz Pliev — are juniors and will return to the mat.
“I dreaded telling them I wasn’t coming back,” Isley said. “When you travel with them, you build a strong relationship with them and you get to know them pretty well. I spent a hundred hours in the car with Jevon, Mikael and Yuriy (Slutskiy). You listen to music and talk.”
Southridge athletic director Tim Wood, who also is in the process of hiring a volleyball coach after John Lengphounpraseut resigned after last season, said he is sad to see Isley step down.
“He did a fantastic job,” Wood said. “I know he loved it. The past two years were the best in school history in taking kids to state. We have great assistant coaches, and they will step up.”
Isley said assistant coaches Rich Cunningham, Troy Cunningham and Andy Logozzo will remain with the program, as will girls coach Lupita Mendez. He said he wasn’t sure if any of the assistants were interested in being the head coach.
“Southridge wrestling still is in a pretty good position,” Isley said. “People who know wrestling and know Rich Cunningham, know what he did at Ki-Be (Kiona-Benton). He is the driving force behind the success we have had. His technique and knowledge are unparalleled.”
With a bit of free time on his hands, Isley can watch his daughter play volleyball (she is a freshman at Southridge) with her club team, Shock Wave, and play a few rounds of golf.
“Faith will start golfing Monday for Southridge,” he said. “Golf is one of my big loves. I played 160 rounds last year. She is pretty new at golf, but we had a lesson Thursday, and it was good.”