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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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8/10/2013 1:18:00 PM
McKeever Jr. to become new wrestling coach
Stability, returning 'to the top of the mountain,' priorities for new head coach
Mingus Union football assistant coach Tim McKeever Jr. (left), instructs players at the annual Cali camp. McKeever was recently hired on as the Marauders new wrestling coach. VVN/Travis Guy
Mingus Union football assistant coach Tim McKeever Jr. (left), instructs players at the annual Cali camp. McKeever was recently hired on as the Marauders new wrestling coach. VVN/Travis Guy

Travis Guy
Sports Reporter

The search for a new head wrestling coach at Mingus Union is over, with a familiar face taking the reins and hoping to restore the program back to its previous dominance.

On Aug. 8, the Mingus Union High School District approved the hiring of Cottonwood resident, and Mingus Union volunteer assistant coach for wrestling, baseball and football, Tim McKeever Jr., for the vacant position.

More than likely, Marauders fans have seen McKeever out supporting Mingus athletics. Not only is he at games to cheer on, and support, his son Cordell McKeever, but he can be seen on the sidelines during football games, in the dugout through baseball season and in the wrestling room in the winter, volunteering his time as an assistant coach. Following the departure of former coach Ryan Montgomery, McKeever applied for the position.

"It's something that I have a passion for," McKeever said. "I love these kids, and so many of them I've coached since they were little, in different sports, and I saw an opportunity to form a bigger bond with them, so I decided to go for it."

McKeever has been an assistant coach for the past two year at Mingus, and helped coach the Cottonwood Middle School's wrestling team. He was introduced to the sport when Cordell joined the team, and then coach Klint McKean told McKeever that wrestling would become his favorite sport, because of the intensity and hard work that goes into it. Wrestling did in fact become one of McKeever's favorite sports, for the reasons above, but also how it molded the student-athletes.

"The coach came up to me and said, 'you will be amazed at how intense this sport is, and it will become your favorite sport.' I saw what it did to change, not only my son, into a man, but I've seen it take every boy that walks into that program, and it turns them into a man," McKeever said. "That's what makes me have the passion to work harder and get better every single day as a coach, because I don't want to let them down when I see all the changes that they're going through and all the things that they've done to strive to be excellent, because wrestling's the hardest sport anybody can do, in my opinion. We work harder and we have to have discipline in the things that we eat, they way that we exercise. It's my favorite thing to do."

McKeever has been involved in coaching his Cordell since he was 6-years-old, so taking over the wrestling job will be nothing new for he father and son. Cordell said that he is happy about the hiring because of what his dad brings to the team, and that the school hired someone that the team is familiar with.

"I was pretty glad that we got an experienced coach that was able to come in, and not somebody that doesn't really know what they are doing," Cordell said. "I'm also glad that it was him that got it. He's a very emotional coach, he gets us pumped up."

Since the two have had the interesting dynamic for so long, one would think that the coaching could follow them from practices and competitions to home, but that is not the case. The family has a rule that no coaching happens when they get home.

"We have a rule that once we leave the parking lot of the school, it stays at school," McKeever said. "Then the rest of the drive home, he could say, 'hey, I need to talk to you about something that you said,' or I'll ask him if I can have a coaching moment, but usually its when we leave the parking lot, and if not, its when we get in the driveway and it stays there ... I need to be his dad first, but for that two hours a day when I'm coaching, I'm his coach, but for the rest of the time my main priority is to be his dad."

Two of McKeever's goals as head coach are to bring stability back to program and return it to its former excellence. McKeever is the fourth head coach in three year for Marauders' wrestling. Before that, former coach Tom Wokasch helmed the program for 20 years, then resigned following the 2009-10 season.

"The thing that I'm going to try to do is bring some stability," McKeever said. "I'm not going anywhere. I have a drywall company, so as long as there's still drywall to do, I'm staying in the Verde Valley, and I love the kids that we work with. They give their blood, sweat and tears in that room, everyday. You can't walk away from them."

The new head coach is aware of the wrestling team's dominance it once had, plus the lineage of long-time coaches. Before Wokasch, the program was led by Anthony Lozano, who, according to McKeever, 'took over and really built the program, he built the room that we wrestle in, he did a great job.' When Wokasch took over the program, he 'took it to the next level. He was passionate about the sport and did a wonderful job.'

With the help of McKean, McKeever knows that to rebuild the legacy of the wrestling team, it is going to start with the children. McKean is the head coach of the Mingus Mountain Wrestling Club, a place where children can go learn how to wrestle before going on to junior high and high school. McKeever knows that this is one of the keys to re-establishing Marauder dominance on the mats.

"What we're trying to do again is build a big foundation from the little kids, all the way to the high schoolers," McKeever said. That's (what was done) back when we were dominant, that program was thriving, so that's what we need to do."

While he waits for the children to get to high school, he is confident in his current stock of wrestlers. As of right now, there is one senior that has returned to the program, Dylan Wilber, 'and he should contend for a state championship,' and 'a core of incredible juniors' that he has high expectations for this season.

"He (Wilber) had some difficulty at the end of last year, but we're expecting him to be a state placer. We're expecting him to really take the lead (this season)," McKeever said. "We've got A.J. Vinson, Cordell McKeever, Wyatt Midkiff, who is probably one of the best wrestlers that I've ever seen. If he stays on track and stays focused, we're good. Doug Gross is another one. If we can keep him healthy, he had a hand injury, if we can keep him healthy; he's going to contend for a state championship."

One wrestler that is excited for the new coaches vision and goal is Vinson. The junior and his teammates want a state championship, and the energy and emotion McKeever brings to the mat give them confidence.

"I really think he's going to do a lot for this wrestling team. How he really wants to get a state championship again. All the juniors and Dylan Wilber, the senior, are really looking of a state championship again," Vinson said. "(We) are really looking forward to him coaching and giving his knowledge to us, with wrestling and in the class room. We're all pretty psyched"

The new head coach already has a plan for the team, and since he is familiar with the talent and knows what the wrestlers are capable of, he has trained his sights on one thing.

"We're going to give Thunderbird a run for their money, and we expect to win," McKeever said. "We're Mingus wrestling, we don't ever expect to lose, and anything less than a championship is unacceptable. So that's what we strive for, because that's who we are. You don't go from the top of the mountain and be satisfied with the bottom. We need to work our butts off and get back up to the top of that mountain."

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Darby

Mingus has made the right choice in hiring Coach McKeever to lead their wresting program. He is an outstanding individual, a natural leader and the kids love him. Having coached with Tim in the past I know first hand his dedication, passion, knowledge, and high level of integrity. I look forward to seeing the Mingus wrestling program return to winning ways, Coach McKeever will help make that happen.

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