Joe Richardson succeeds Craig Shaw as Alliance wrestling coach
On the night Alliance gained a new football coach, it lost an assistant.
Joe Richardson, who joined former football coach Seth Whiting's staff in 2016, will leave the football sidelines for the wrestling room. He was approved by the school board on May 24 to succeed Craig Shaw as Alliance's head wrestling coach.
"I worked for Craig as an assistant [from 2017-19] and I learned a lot about running a program," Richardson said. "He did a great job building the program and it's in great shape and I want to try and build upon the foundation he set."
Richardson, 31, graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School and Heidelberg University, where he also played football. He later was a graduate assistant football coach at Walsh University under head coach Jim Dennison. Whiting was another graduate assistant and Goodman was the starting right tackle at the time.
"I have a passion for both football and wrestling, but I envisioned myself more of a head wrestling coach than a [head] football coach," said Richardson, who is the high school's strength and athletic coordinator. "I feel I have a better chance to build closer relationships with the wrestlers."
Richardson has a versatile and extensive high school wrestling background, competing anywhere from 160 pounds to 215 pounds, He won 100 high school matches during his four-year career (2001-04) and also was a four-year district qualifier.
"We had a good wrestling program at Cuyahoga Falls," Richardson said. "We won a WRC [Western Reserve Conference] championship and Jason McGee was a state runner-up at 140 pounds."
While assisting Shaw, who left Alliance to assume the coaching duties at Canfield, Richardson worked with the middle and upper weights and detected an extremely strong passion and work ethic among the athletes.
"Craig has a passion for wrestling and he instilled that in the wrestlers," Richardson said. "He also taught them how to train hard and be committed, and we plan on continuing with that [philosophy]."
Richardson is married to Kelly, an elementary school teacher in the Barberton City Schools and the couple are parents to daughters Elliott (3) and Mae (1).
"Kelly just said, 'I'm all in!' when I accepted the head coaching job," Richardson said. "She's been very supportive of me since I began coaching and she knew my ultimate goal was to be a head coach."
Once he was hired, Richardson first met with the returners from last year's team, then began assembling a staff. His first hire was former Alliance standout Isaiah Watson-Kirksey, who went on to compete at Mount Union.
"He's an Alliance kid who worked hard to become a great wrestler after getting bigger [moving from 138 pounds to 170 pounds] and I think our kids can identify with him very easy," Richardson said.
Shaw fielded a youthful team during his final season at Alliance, including several freshmen. Jackson Eddy, Adam Zumbar and Aidan Mozdan, who all participated in the upper weights in their first year of high school competition, were talented and skilled enough to make the district tournament. Tomas Simmons and Maliki Mason are two veterans with substantial mat experience.
"We have a good nucleus back," Richardson said. "Our goal [as coaches] is to work with them, but adjust to each one, because every wrestler has different skills and a different body type. We want to develop their style and comfort level."
Richardson has coached multiple high school sports and he wants to coach athletes who compete in multiple sports and help shape and mold them, both as wrestlers and as people.
"It's great having kids play other sports in wrestling because they will use their body in different ways in other sports," he said. "Our goal is to develop athletes into wrestlers, then develop wrestlers into better wrestlers, and develop all of our wrestlers into better people."