ORONO, Maine — It was supposed to be just a brief run, a one-year concession to the relentless pleading of one of his students at Bangor Tennis.
But when Dean Armstrong turned in his resignation as Orono High School’s boys and girls tennis coach this week, it marked the end of a 14-year stay that produced one of the more successful programs in Eastern Maine.
“That he stayed for 14 years is a testament to what he thought of the kids at Orono and what they thought of him,” said Orono athletic administrator Mike Archer. “He’s just a great teacher of the game, he’s great with kids, he’s well respected across the state and he’s been a great advocate for the sport of tennis.”
Armstrong’s teams compiled a combined record of 276-120 while winning three Eastern Maine Class C girls championships and two regional titles on the boys side.
Armstrong was named Class C boys tennis coach of the year in 1996, 1999 and 2004, and was the Class C girls coach of the year in 2001 and 2005.
But perhaps even more sustaining to the school’s educational mission was the fact that tennis became one of Orono’s most popular sports. Some 50 players on average have competed for the Red Riots in recent years, with a high of nearly 70 just a couple of years ago from among a total student population of approximately 350.
So many kids have been playing tennis at Orono, the Riots instituted a junior varsity program — a rarity in Maine, particularly for a Class C school.
“One of the goals was to not only field a varsity team, but to give kids who want to learn tennis a chance to learn how to play a sport they could continue to play for the rest of their lives,” said Armstrong, who also has operated Bangor Tennis for more than a decade.
Armstrong, who admits to being “over 65,” said his decision to leave the Orono coaching post was tied to his longing to do other things during the spring such as playing more golf and spending more time traveling around the country.
“I was expecting to do this for one year, and now it’s 14 years later,” he said. “I just grew attached to the kids, and I’m still attached to them, but I want to be able to do some things I haven’t been able to do in the spring months.”
Armstrong took the Orono job in 1996 at the urging of Robbie Butler, then an Orono High School senior who was taking private tennis lessons from Armstrong and had developed into one of the state’s top singles players.
With the Red Riots’ coaching position vacant, Armstrong finally took the job and immediately led the Orono boys squad to that year’s Eastern Maine Class C title while also helping Butler reach the state singles championship match.
Since then the Red Riots have remained successful in both boys and girls tennis, a sport dominated in the Class C ranks by Western Maine schools. The boys team added another regional title in 2005, while the girls won EM championships in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Armstrong also guided his boys teams to Eastern C runnerup finishes in 1999, 2006 and 2007, and the girls squad to second-place regional efforts in 2001 and 2004.
His boys teams finished with a combined record of 147-55, while his girls’ squads went 129-65.
“All the success I had was generated by the kids and the work they put in,” said Armstrong.
Wrestling rule changes enacted
Five new rules changes for the 2009-10 wrestling season have been approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“The main focus of the changes was clarifying some rules dealing with tournaments,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS assistant director and liaison to the organization’s wrestling rules committee, in a press release. “One of the changes also dealt with improving sportsmanship, which is always a high priority with all NFHS rules.”
Two steps were added to clarify the offensive starting position. As a part of the steps to assume the offensive starting position, the offensive wrestler’s head must be on or above the opponent’s spinal column, and both wrestlers must become stationary. The referee still must pause momentarily before blowing the whistle.
Two new tie-breaker options for dual-meet competitions have been added.
First, “The team whose opposing wrestlers or team personnel have been penalized the greater number of team point deductions shall be declared the winner.” Second, “The team whose opposing wrestlers were penalized the greater number of match points for unsportsmanlike conduct during a match shall be declared the win-ner.”
Colgate said this change eliminates the possibility of a team that has been penalized the greater number of points for coaching misconduct or any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct winning a dual meet in the event of a tie.
In Rule 1-2-1, the rules committee added: “In individually bracketed tournaments, the contestant representing a school shall be named by weight class prior to the conclusion of the weigh-in and no substitution is allowed after the conclusion of the weigh-in.” The rule previously contradicted two other rules, but now all three guidelines are in concurrence.
Another clarification decreed that if a designated, on-site meet physician is present, he or she may examine a wrestler for communicable skin disease or any other condition, either immediately prior to or immediately after the weigh-in.
Another rule change provides tournament administrators the option to hold weigh-ins by either weight class or teams to help with the organization at tournaments.
National points of emphasis for the 2009-10 season include excessive celebrations; awarding near-fall points; legalities of scissors, draping scissors and Figure 4; and communicable disease.
Wrestling is the sixth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 259,688 participants, according to the 2007-08 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey. In addition, there were an additional 5,527 girls nationwide who participated in wrestling in 2007-08.