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CEDAR RAPIDS – For more than two decades, Matt Orton has been working with other families, coaching and teaching.
The Cedar Rapids Jefferson head wrestling coach will turn his attention to his own family.
Orton confirmed that he has resigned as head wrestling coach. Jefferson announced the move in a news release Monday, noting the search for his replacement will begin immediately.
Orton will remain as a Physical Education teacher in Jefferson’s Performance PE program, which is a National Demonstration and CrossFit certified school.
“I’ve been coaching in some form for 24 years straight,” Orton said. “I’ve been robbing my family of time. I felt like I wanted to give some time and give to the ones that I’ve taken it from.”
His role as teacher and coach kept him from spending as much time at home with his family, leaving his wife, Shannon, to juggle the responsibilities of both parents during the season. He said his priority now is to be a better dad and husband.
“My first class is at 6:30 in the morning,” Orton said. “For six years, I leave home, it is dark, I get home, it is dark and repeat for four months straight.”
Orton was an assistant coach at Iowa City West before joining to the J-Hawk staff in 2011. Orton, who won the Class 3A 135-pound title in 1989, was reunited with his former prep coach, Dick Briggs. Orton has served as co-head coach since 2012, taking sole possession of the post before last season.
The J-Hawks were 58-22 since Orton was named co-head coach, going 6-4 last season. They won Mississippi Valley Conference divisional dual titles in 2014-16. Orton helped coach a state champion (Conner Herman won the 215-pound title in 2011), 12 state medalists and 17 state qualifiers. The J-Hawks reached the 2014 and 2015 State Duals tournament, placing seventh and third, respectively.
Leading a program is a year-round job.
“In order to be successful at the state level, there are no breaks,” said Orton, who spent time fundraising in the offseason. “You have to consistently get kids to offseason tournaments.”
Orton added, “The job doesn’t get any easier and it takes more and more time.”
Orton said there were wrestlers he didn’t want to walk from on the team. He said the program is in good shape with talented underclassmen.
“We’ve got a good group of freshmen and sophomores,” Orton said. “I didn’t want to leave the cupboard bare and have it in good shape.”
The J-Hawks have only had seven head wrestling coaches.
“Jefferson will seek a candidate with the experience and drive to continue to build on the Jefferson Wrestling tradition,” school officials said in the release.
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