By Marsha Sutton
An incident at a Jan. 17 wrestling match between a student and a coach resulted in the firing, and subsequent rehiring, of the wrestling coach for Canyon Crest Academy.
Craig Van Dyke was initially released by CCA principal Brian Kohn and assistant principal and CCA athletic director Jeff Copeland after interviews with eyewitnesses and officials at the match. District officials declined to provide specific reasons for his release, citing confidentiality of personnel files.
However, parents and supporters of the CCA team reported that Van Dyke behaved appropriately and was the unjustified target of an obscenity laced verbal assault by a Julian High School student and parent that nearly became physical.
At the Feb. 2 San Dieguito Union High School District board meeting, about 40 parents, students and other backers came to support Van Dyke and to request that he be reinstated. Fourteen people asked to speak, but the school board only had time to hear seven.
They described details of a volatile altercation between a Julian High School wrestler and Van Dyke, after the Julian wrestler was pinned by a CCA wrestler.
Tina Nova, attending the match as a scorekeeper, said the conduct of the Julian student and his father was “horrific” and that the CCA coach “did nothing wrong.”
Sherry Singer, the team’s parent liaison, said the Julian father “was very large and very aggressive.” She said firing Van Dyke, especially mid-year, “sends the wrong message” to the students, and that he did nothing to deserve dismissal.
The kids, said Sam Carrillo, “had the rug pulled out from under them.”
Parent Richard Baer said after losing the match the Julian wrestler refused to shake the opposing coach’s hand, as all team members are required to do, and, approaching Van Dyke, raised his fist, showed his middle finger and shouted obscenities.
“He seemed very angry toward our coach,” said Baer, after the meeting. “I don’t understand where that anger stemmed from.”
“The kid flipped me off and said FU to me,” said Van Dyke after the meeting. “I don’t know why he was upset with me personally. He didn’t do that toward my wrestler.”
He said the Julian wrestler’s father came at him too, screaming profanities, until the parent was held back by other adults.
The Julian wrestling coach was not aggressive, Van Dyke said, although he was unable to control his athlete and the parent. “Obviously they acted inappropriately,” he said. “They were definitely in the wrong.”
Van Dyke, who’s been involved with the sport for nearly 20 years, said he’s never seen a wrestler attack a coach before.
“It’s an aggressive sport,” he said. “Emotions are high. But coming after a coach is not the right thing to do.”
“I was rather shocked at this behavior,” said Baer. “I’ve never seen a wrestler behave like this.”
Fired, then rehired
Van Dyke said he didn’t know why he was fired. “I didn’t get a clear answer,” he said. “Obviously it had something to do with the incident.”