When Mike Boyd became the Riverside-Brookfield High School wrestling coach in the 2013-14 school year, he wanted to change the culture of the struggling program. A high turnover of coaches, low numbers of wrestlers, mediocre results, and even outdated singlets were among his concerns.
Within three years, the RBHS wrestling program dramatically improved under Boyd. The Bulldogs went 20-3 with three sectional qualifiers this season and the number of wrestlers in the program has increased from approximately 15 to 88 including the development of a girls wrestling team. In 2015, the Bulldogs went 19-4 with a school-record 12 sectional and six state qualifiers, highlighted by Al’Lon Carter’s fifth-place showing at 220 pounds in the Class 2A finals.
“When I first got to RB, I was just an outsider,” Boyd said. “I was the guy selling empty promises that the kids had heard before. Once they started to buy in to what I promised, everything became easier.”
Unfortunately, Boyd won’t be able to finish what he started with the Bulldogs. Boyd, who won a wrestling state title at St. Rita in 2001, resigned from his head coaching position during a meeting with RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana on March 4.
“When I first came to Riverside-Brookfield, I was in the process of getting my Masters Degree (in Special Education) and teaching certificate,” Boyd said. “I came to RB with the hope that if I did a good job here they would have a full-time teaching position for me.
“Mrs. Smetana told me currently there are no teaching opportunities available, but when something does open I can apply for the job. Currently, I’m student teaching at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Prior to that, I was student teaching at Komarek School in North Riverside. I’ll be graduating soon so I need a teaching position.”
After the meeting with Boyd, Smetana issued the following statement.
“Mike Boyd had done a nice job with the wrestling program and I was surprised when he submitted his resignation. Mike is currently completing his student teaching and was given the opportunity to return to RB for the 2016-17 school year in his current Academic Support position and coaching role, but was not interested.
“Mike wanted affirmation that he would receive a full time teaching position in special education for the 2016-17 school year, and I could not provide him with that affirmation. As a result, Mike chose to resign.
“While Mike has put a lot of time and energy into the wrestling program, there is still an established application process that all applicants must go through to obtain a teaching job in District 208. Mike, like any other candidate, would need to successfully complete this process to demonstrate that he is qualified for the teaching position.”
While Boyd described the situation as disheartening, he felt resigning now will allow RBHS more time to find a replacement.
“I told (Smetana) it’s going to be difficult to find a coach who brings to the table what I do and doesn’t want a teaching job,” Boyd said. “It’s not impossible but it’s going to be hard. I don’t want to toot my own horn but a lot of kids are in the RB wrestling program because I coached them. There about 80 wrestlers in the program now. I can almost guarantee that number will drop to 40 or less now that I’m no longer the coach.”
Boyd started his student teaching at OPRF working with students with autism and severe profound disabilities on March 8. He’ll finish April 22 with a graduation date of April 28
He’ll also help with the OPRF wrestling program, which won its third straight state championship this year.
Boyd leaves RBHS with no regrets.
“I put in more hours than any human being who walks into Riverside-Brookfield High School. I’m there 15 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “When you look at all the work I’ve put in developing the wrestling program coupled with the fact I’ll have a Masters Degree in Special Education, I thought RB would take care of me.
“I told the kids in our wrestling program and their parents at our team banquet (March 4) that I resigned. It was tough, felt like a wake. I buried my dad about six years ago, and this is probably the second hardest thing I’ve done.”
Whether it’s at RBHS, OPRF or another school, his goal remains to be hired as a full-time teacher and wrestling coach.
“I’m still open to RB,” Boyd said. “If a teaching job becomes available, I’ll apply. If they hire me and also still need a wrestling coach on any level of the program, I’d gladly help out.”