FORTVILLE — For all of the budget issues the Mt. Vernon school corporation faces, its problems are less severe than those of Indianapolis Public Schools.
Jason Stewart is hoping for a calmer, but still successful, environment as he leaves Indianapolis Manual to take over the Mt. Vernon wrestling program.
Stewart was hired by the Marauders as their new wrestling coach, replacing Dan McKinney, who recently resigned.
The head coach at Manual the past 10 years, Stewart was Indianapolis Public School Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times while guiding the Redskins to four IPSAC championships. Stewart was also named the 2010 IPS Winter Sports Coach of the Year.
Manual is one of four IPS schools taken over this year by private companies charged with improving poor attendance, test scores and other issues. Charter USA took over at Manual and Howe High Schools and Emma Donnan Middle School, while another company — Ed Power — is in charge of Arlington High Schools.
Even though Stewart will continue to teach at Manual for the time being, he won’t miss certain aspects of coaching at the school.
“It’s been a challenge the last two years in the inner-city, keeping kids out (for the team), keeping them interested,” said Stewart, who will be assisted with the Marauders by his brother, Kevin. “At Mt. Vernon — I assume — there’s more parental involvement and other obstacles you don’t have to overcome. Getting kids a ride to school, things like that.”
Budgets constraints have presented challenges for Mt. Vernon athletic programs, as well, the last few years. Teachers, including some coaches, have lost their jobs as the corporation attempts to trim expenses, and a $225 pay-to-participate extracurricular plan was instituted beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
The Marauders carried only 25 wrestlers on their roster last winter, a small number for a school with a student population of over 1,100.
At the 10-team sectional, Mt. Vernon finished ninth with 19 points, ahead of only Eastern Hancock (12). Warren Central won the sectional with 212 points. MV was also last in the Hoosier Heritage Conference tourney.
The Marauders, however, were dealing with low turnout even before the pay-to-play plan. They also finished next-to-last in the 2010-11 sectional while fielding a roster of 26 grapplers.
Stewart said he’s been told that the program’s low numbers of wrestlers wasn’t due to the participation fee.
“I didn’t realize that they were in that situation until I actually spoke with (MV administrators), but they kind of mentioned that they hadn’t seen a big decline, if any, since that happened,” he said. “So, we’ll see.
“For me, it will be an obstacle, but one that can be overcome easily, as opposed to some of the other things I’m used to. There’s always fundraising opportunities and things like that to help combat that pay.”
The bottom line, Stewart noted, is to expect success, no matter the circumstances.
“Absolutely,” he said of having lofty goals for MV wrestling. “I come from successful programs in the past and looking forward to instilling that in a new program here. It’s a great opportunity here, so I’m looking forward to it.”