MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

April 22, 2014

Muskogee wrestling coach resigns after one year

Citing issues regarding his family and extended family, John Petty resigned as Muskogee High wrestling coach Monday.

“There’s needs there that I need to address and considering all the aspects of it, it’s best that I step down,” he said. “I appreciate the support I’ve had here from (superintendent Mike) Garde in giving me the opportunity, and the kids I’ve had.”

Petty’s one-year tenure hasn’t been easy.

He was hired in August amid controversy which eventually led to the retirement of athletic director Bob Jefferson and the resignation of his sons, then-assistant coaches Shae Jefferson and Dan Jefferson.  In what seen as an administrative standoff  between the elder Jefferson and Garde with issues dating back to a firing of Jefferson and his subsequent appeal and reinstatement, the elder Jefferson was given the choice between the athletic director job or his head wrestling job but not both.  

While maintaining he never made a choice, Bob Jefferson wound up with just the AD position and a search began for his replacement. Dan Jefferson was among those interviewed during a week which witnessed small protests over Jefferson’s removal outside the BEST Center as applicants were interviewed.

Petty, whose most recent job had been as a coach with the Atlanta Wrestling Academy, became the board’s choice. Dan Jefferson took a job as an assistant coach at Union, Shae Jefferson a similar position at Pryor and Bob Jefferson retired in the fall as AD.

“It was hard to get out of the starting line when things are being said before you’re out of the chute,” Petty said. “I heard a lot of it, but I never had anyone come to me directly that was critical of my coaching.  I just hope that going forward the adults out there who have been negative will leave the kids alone by leaving the coaches alone.  The kids have been caught in the middle of this since the start and that’s been a tough thing for them.

“But I tell you this, even now with all that’s transpired, I’d have come here anyway.  I never back down from a fight and the kids have been great to coach.  Have  there been problems there? Yeah, we’ve had some disciplinary issues that we’ve had to handle. But I’ve also had kids come up and say in spite of what they heard, they realized that we as coaches knew what we were doing.”

In Petty’s only year, the Roughers made dual state but lost in the first round. Two Muskogee wrestlers, Dawaylon Barnes and Jacobe Smith, both won individual state championships.

“I want to express disappointment but I also understand his decision,” Garde said. “I do appreciate the job he did this year which culminated in two state champions.  We will be posting the position of head coach for at least two weeks.  And as usual I will select an interview committee to assist in selecting the finalist for the coaching position.”

Reached by phone about the possibility of tossing his hat back in the ring, Dan Jefferson said he had received some offers already but was preoccupied with Team Oklahoma duties at the moment.

“Will I apply? Honestly I haven’t given it much thought (since hearing about it),” he said. “Just like with any decision, everything must be right, beginning with God first and my wife second.”

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