CAMDEN — Certainly no one wanted to see the Dicky Howell era end the way it did this winter.
But Caesar Rodney High made the first big step toward turning the page when it hired former Rider standout Dan Rigby to be its new wrestling head coach on Tuesday night.
The 28-year-old Rigby has spent the last five seasons as the head coach at Milford High, leading the Buccaneers to back-to-back Division II team state championships.
The CR School Board interviewed three finalists for the job on Tuesday night. Dover athletic director and coach Aaron Harris and Riders’ soccer coach Darrell Gravatt — also a long-time wrestling coach — were interviewed as well.
Like Rigby, Harris and Gravatt are also former CR wrestlers with head coaching experience.
“I thought we had three outstanding candidates,” said Caesar Rodney superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. “I wish I had those type of candidates every time I had to hire someone. It makes it tough because every one of them was very qualified, they’re all guys that grew up in the program.
“The thing that really stands out about Dan is Dan went to a Milford program that was struggling and he did a remarkable job in rebuilding that program. While our program needs to be tweaked perhaps — not necessarily rebuilt — we need to turn the corner. We were looking for someone to make that kind of commitment and bring the type of enthusiasm that Dan brings.”
Rigby wasn’t available for comment on Tuesday night.
Howell coached the Riders for the last 23 seasons before being arrested on charges of having an improper relationship with a female student in January. He led CR to eight Division I team state championships in his tenure.
Ray Hall, who runs the Little Rider wrestling program, was on hand for Tuesday’s board meeting. He has two middle-school-aged sons who wrestle in the district.
Hall said the uncertainty about the future of the program after Howell’s arrest was difficult for those involved.
“I think now everyone can look toward the future,” said Hall. “Until now it’s been, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Now we can work toward that.
“I think he (Rigby) has a lot of roots here in the community. I think we can build on that and definitely be successful in the future.”
“We have hired an excellent coach tonight,” said CR bard president William Bush. “What he’s done at Milford is incredible. He’s going to do great things with the program.”
Milford went 40-23 in dual meets under Rigby over his five seasons. That included a 25-2 mark with the two state championships in the last two years.
Before going to Milford, Rigby was an assistant coach at Wilmington Charter — while he was a student at the University of Delaware — before working as an assistant at Polytech for a season.
As a wrestler, Rigby finished second in the state at 160 pounds as a senior in 2005.
Ironically, Gravatt was one of Rigby’s coaches at CR. The former Rider state champion was an assistant under Howell for 11 Henlopen Conference titles and five Division I state championships.
Meanwhile, Harris helped coach South Dade (Fla.) to a state crown in 2004.
“The board doesn’t know how fortunate it is to have that difficult a decision to make,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re just really lucky. Now we need to get refocused and start the process to bring Caesar Rodney wrestling back to where it was.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.