By ROSS BROWN
PAXTON -- Eight years after establishing its high school wrestling program, Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School is disbanding it.
School board members voted unanimously Wednesday night on a reduction-in-force measure for PBL’s wrestling coach, Jacob Meyer, and superintendent Cliff McClure said the district will not vote to extend its cooperative agreement with Rantoul.
"It’s not because of anything wrong the staff has done, but we just did not have the level of participation that we thought," he said.
McClure said the IHSA’s vote on a number of reforms in late November necessitated the move.
"With the IHSA moving to a district format in football, they are also restructuring all of the current cooperative agreements," McClure explained.
The IHSA’s realignment meant that PBL would need to renew its two-year agreement with Rantoul for an additional two years, something McClure said was not in the best interest of the both he and athletic director Brock Niebuhr.
The Panthers had fielded a team for seven seasons prior to establishing what was then thought to be a two-year cooperative agreement with the Eagles, due to both programs not fielding enough grapplers for a complete roster.
For the past year, PBL wrestlers had been bussed to Rantoul for practices and meets. Rantoul head coach Mark McCusker remained in that position with the co-op program, with PBL hiring a coach to oversee its side.
McClure told board members that PBL simply was not fielding enough wrestlers to make the arrangement viable.
"We just didn’t have a high participation this year by the end, and most of the students who did participate were juniors and seniors," he said.
McClure said the district was given wrestling mats from community members as a donation for the program. He said those will be redistributed to their original owners after the board’s April meeting.
Board member Steve Pacey asked fellow board members to consider entering students in IHSA-sanctioned competitions they wish to enter regardless of whether PBL is able to field a full team or not.
"I think any student who wants to participate in the state series for an activity we do not have a team, we ought to have a policy where we will enter them into the state series," he explained. "That could be wrestling, swimming, bowling, bass fishing, gymnastics. If we have a student who belongs to a club and wants to train for wrestling, our policy ought to be that we will enter them into the state series and will designate someone as their coach."
Pacey noted that the IHSA sponsors numerous activities other than sports such as debate and public speaking.
"We ought to give the opportunity to students if they want to do it on their own," he said.
PBL maintains a cooperative agreement for golf with Rantoul, which will continue.