Blackburn to quit Big Red coach mat | News, Sports, Jobs
STEUBENVILLE – While Steubenville High School is widely known for its football program, Mike Blackburn has done his best to straighten out the Big Red wrestling program.
In 16 seasons as head coach, Blackburn’s teams have won 273 double competitions, eight championships in the Bill Hinegardner Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Double Competition Tournament 4A and 5A, as well as five OVAC Ron Mauck titles. Class 4A and a crown in the general classification.
Blackburn recently announced that he is stepping down as head coach to spend more time with his family, but he is not giving up on the program he helped resuscitate. He will serve as an assistant to new head coach Lucas Huffman, who has been alongside Blackburn for the past 12 campaigns.
âWe’ve been quite blessed with a lot of great coaches and some pretty amazing kids too,â Blackburn told Big Red about his time. âWe had a rough start when I came here trying to rebuild everything. From Ralph Petrella, we had good children to help start the program.
âOnce we started it, we had amazing wrestlers and amazing young men who came this way,â he added. âThe support the school gives to athletics and wrestling is incredible. We’re definitely a football school, but we’ve always had support for the wrestling team.
“We’re like family too,” Blackburn continued. âIf the kids have gone to college, they always come back and want to train in the (wrestling) room. The children who stay here and work are the same. It’s good to have kids like this talking to you, communicating with you via email or text, and just wanting to be there because they know they were a part of something special here. “
Under Blackburn’s tutelage, around 25-30 Big Red wrestlers continued their academic and athletic careers at the college level, most of them competing in the DI and D-II.
“We were fortunate to have good wrestlers who wanted to further their careers and most of them had a wide choice of schools to choose from.” Blackburn noted. âThey were not only good wrestlers, but also good students.â
If he has one regret during his extended tenure at Big Red, it’s not having a single state champion.
âWe had seven in the final. We thought there were a few who could and probably should have won crown titles. “ Blackburn said recalling the Division II state championship games involving Tariq Wilson and Greg Moray right away. âTariq just didn’t wrestle like he was capable this year and Greg was gaining a point late in the game to be called up to stall and then lose in overtime.
Another individual who had a legitimate chance at a state title was Branko Busick.
“He got injured winning in the quarter-finals and couldn’t continue,” Blackburn remembered. “He would have won a state title.”
Steubenville has also won seven Division II section championships, a pair of Eastern District titles and has been a five-time district finalist. They were also the Division II regional leaders in 2016 and 2021, as well as the state semi-finalists for both years. Blackburn has coached 61 section title lists, 22 district champions and 30 state placers. He was twice named D-II Coach of the Year and OVAC Class 4A Coach of the Year five times, while being a three-time finalist for the OVAC Bill Van Horne Coach of the Year Award.
The 2012 Big Red team is the only school to have beaten Parkersburg South in the OVAC Ron Mauck tournament.
The closet is far from empty as Steubenville returns eight district qualifiers and one state qualifier from 2020-21.
âWe’re still going to ride as we always have. He has been around forever and has a great knowledge of wrestling, â Blackburn said of Huffman who graduated from River High School and West Liberty University âHe’s ready to go. We will improve and be even better on the road.
Huffman can’t wait for his first head coach gig.
âI’m really looking forward to getting started. I definitely have big shoes to fill in because Mike has done a terrific job with the program since he took it over, â Huffman said. âI’m just happy to be a part of it.
“Simply because we are changing job titles, our mission remains the same”, Huffman pointed out. âWe want to bring a good product to the table; we want to teach these children to be respectful; and we want them to excel in the classroom. “
Huffman has a pretty impressive resume on the mat, both school and college.
He qualified three times during his years at River. He was a state runner-up at 112 pounds his junior season and finished fifth as a senior. He ranked every four years at OVAC, finishing first as a junior and second as a senior. He was sixth in first year before improving a place in second year.
A four-year holder for the Hilltoppers at 125 pounds, he capped his college career as a national qualifier in 2008.
Ian Whittington will remain on staff.
âIan is great with the kids. He has a rich knowledge of sport, â Huffman said.