SULLIVAN TWP. — Jesse Campbell brought the numbers back up for the Black River wrestling program. Pirates athletic director Ted Gordon hopes Dom McEwen can send them through the roof.
Gordon has recommended McEwen to be hired as the coach, pending board approval at the next meeting, which could come as early as next week.
“You know how sometimes you get that feeling when you’re talking to somebody?” Gordon said. “Obviously with me having 18 years as being head coach in wrestling (at Keystone), I think our philosophies were a lot alike in the questions I asked and the answers I got. I think he’s going to be a real good fit for the program to keep things going and maybe even generate a little bit more. I have a real good feeling about him.”
While McEwen, a 1994 Midview graduate, has never been the head coach of a varsity team, he certainly knows about building a program.
A coach at Cloverleaf for eight years, he was part of the movement that took a Colts program mired in mediocrity and brought it back to life. Once facing a numbers crunch, Cloverleaf finished third in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division and second in the Northwest Division II sectional last season.
The Colts were also big in bodies, with varsity “A” and “B” teams as well as a junior varsity team.
McEwen started off in the youth program in 2010 and then was an assistant to former Colts coach Bob Scandlon for two seasons. He headed the junior high program the last two seasons and has coached multiple state qualifiers and state placers.
“It had the hometown feel,” McEwen said of Black River. “It was very appealing to me. The athletic director made me feel very comfortable. I’m excited to put my stamp on it and to bring Black River wrestling back to what it used to be.
“That is my No. 1 focus and ultimate goal. It’s to bring Black River back to when (Medina Sports Hall of Fame inductee) Dave Khoury was coaching. I think I bring the experience from what I learned from Cloverleaf and the connections I’ve made to where we can succeed.”
Campbell stepped down after the season. He coached 19 district qualifiers, six district placers, three state qualifiers (Ryan Sloan, Jacob Campbell, twice) and mentored his brother, Jacob, to a sixth-place finish last season in Columbus in Division III at 195 pounds. The Pirates finished in the top three at sectionals twice.
McEwen, 43 and a Lodi resident, will bring his sophomore son, Aden Davis, to the team. He plans to use the core group coming back to entice other kids to wrestle.
He owns Studio One19 Salon & Spa in Lodi and works the third shift at Omni Systems in Richmond Heights. That will give him the flexibility to make wrestling a year-round sport like he envisions.
“He’s been very exposed to the youth wrestling, too,” Gordon said. “I think he’ll find people to generate interest in the youth program. Let’s face it, the way you feed your program is by getting a good youth program going.
“I just felt he’s had valuable experience and been around people to see things get built. He’s been around a lot of good people. It just all fell into place at the right time for us. We were fortunate to run into him and that he was interested.”