Mito Mendivil hoped to bring stability to a Payson High wrestling program in desperate need of just that when he accepted the varsity head coaching position a year ago.
But the school finds itself searching for its fifth head coach in four years after Mendivil resigned from his roles as coach and English teacher at PHS.
He listed COVID-19 as a reason.
“I’m asthmatic and with this corona stuff going on, I didn’t want to put myself at unnecessary risk,” Mendivil said. “I have to look after my own wellbeing.”
But he may wind up helping the Longhorns return to glory on the mat more by walking away from the varsity program.
The former standout wrestler and football player at Tucson Empire High announced he’s starting a year-round wrestling club in Payson next week.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” he said. “I’m completely invested in Payson wrestling. It’s just unfortunate this corona crap happened. But I want to get Payson back on the map, regardless if I’m the head coach or not.”
The club practices are on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Aug. 4. Anyone interested in joining the club can email Mendivil at PaysonClubWrestling1@gmail.com.
“Right now we have four classes filled and we have like 30 kids that are interested and we’re going to continue to get bigger as more kids are interested,” he said.
Mendivil said the club is affiliated with USA Wrestling and will follow that organization’s protocols.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) isn’t allowing any practices for school sports, but that won’t affect the club since it has no affiliation to any school and practices aren’t on school property.
“We have our own facility,” he said. “They can email us for information and specifics.”
He said the move has nothing to do with trying to skirt AIA restrictions.
“It isn’t about that,” Mendivil said. “It’s about helping Payson wrestling get back to prominence from young ages to high school.”
The cost is $40 per month for wrestlers to take part.
“That’s an average of $5 per session, so it’s affordable,” Mendivil said. “If people can’t do that, they can email us and we’ll work with them.”
He assures wrestlers and parents that they’ll take all necessary precautions.
“We have protocol,” Mendivil said. “After every practice we’re going to sanitize everything. And we’ll ask kids five questions before they even come to the wrestling room, like whether they’ve had a cough or a fever. We’re making sure everybody’s staying safe.”
PHS and Rim Country Middle School feature a combined 20 coaching openings.
PHS and RCMS Athletic Director Rich Ormand doesn’t think any of them are COVID-19 related.
“I am unaware of Mito’s personal reasons concerning COVID-19,” he said. “He is still coaching a club program.
“As for the other openings, I don’t think any were due to COVID-19 concerns. We normally have a decent turnover in our middle school and PHS assistant or JV/freshman coaching positions as we get a lot of off campus people or parents in those roles and they usually coach for a couple seasons or so and move on when their kids are done.
”Gone are the days when almost all your coaches were also teachers and stayed in the positions for a long time. However we are thankful for all of our off campus coaches."
But the pandemic gives coaches reason to think twice about whether they’ll risk contracting the virus whenever practices resume.
The AIA shut them down as school classrooms closed in March. The AIA has delayed the start of fall sports until at least Aug. 17, and there’s growing concern whether school sports will happen at all during the 2020-21 school year.
A lack of coaches only adds to the uncertainty.