The East Alton-Wood River Oilers are getting a facelift on the coaching front.
Boys and girls basketball, boys golf and wrestling will all have new faces next season at EA-WR. At Tuesday’s School Board meeting, 3 of the 4 positions were filled as Joe Parmentier returns to the Oilers for his second stint as girls basketball coach, Kyle Duncan was named boys golf coach and Tim Donohoo will take over the wrestling program.
Duncan had stepped down as boys basketball coach following the 2016-17 season, as did girls basketball head coach Emily Van Natta. To boot, Dave Sobol will retire at the end of the school year, which left the vacancies for boys golf and wrestling.
Duncan is also the baseball coach at EA-WR and will remain in that role, while adding boys golf to his resumé. Duncan and Van Natta (maiden name Emily Best), both former standout basketball players for the Oilers, have young families they want to focus on. Golf will take up less time for Duncan than basketball.
Van Natta has coached EA-WR the last two seasons, while Duncan has been with the boys since 2012-13. Sobol has coached in different capacities for the Oilers over the last 27 years.
The boys’ basketball team finished 7-22 in ‘16-17, while the girls squad went 2-25 this past season.
With the vacancies EA-WR director of athletics Kevin Gockel has had his hands full finding replacements, but having 3 of the 4 slots filled is a big help.
“I think we’re trying to get some higher numbers and enrollment out for the programs and I think all 3 of these guys are good guys, good coaches and they’re going to give us an opportunity to get more athletes involved,” Gockel said.
Parmentier retired as a teacher from EA-WR at the end of last season. He also stepped down as the boys tennis coach then and had stepped away from the head football position the year previous. Parmentier coached the boys hoops program for the Oilers for a total of 10 seasons, first from 1995-2002 and then after a year hiatus again from ‘03-06. He spent one season at the helm of the girls program, too, and now returns to focus on that.
“Joe is a very qualified coach,” Gockel said. “He’s got tremendous coaching experience in basketball and has done a good job at boys basketball at almost every level. When he coached the girls here one year, he tried to transition it into a program and it just wasn’t the right fit for him. Now he’s very much involved in this, he’s got a daughter that’s in the program and he’s 100 percent ready to go and wants to coach.”
The numbers on the golf squad were low last season and with the graduation of seniors Drew Sobol and Brendan Allen it leaves the cupboard pretty bare. Sobol was tied for the lead at the Class 2A state tournament after the first day this season before ultimately finishing in a tie for 14th place.
Duncan is a teacher at the high school, so his hiring gives him an opportunity to stay in front of the kids and be an ambassador for the program to keep the numbers up.
“He’s got head coaching experience and we thought that was important,” Gockel said. “Our golf numbers have been low and we thought it was important to get someone who relates well with the students and Kyle definitely relates very well with the students. He has experience playing mostly recreational golf, but has taken some lessons and has experience fundraising golf tournaments and things like that.
“He’s already talked to a number of kids and it looks like just in the few days he’s been hired he might be able to double the number of kids out for golf next year, which we feel is very important to keep the program running. And he’s got that head coaching experience and I think once you’ve got that you can coach a lot of different sports because you know how to manage kids and teach them fundamentals. Kyle’s done a real good job with that in basketball and I think that will transition to golf.”
Wrestling had many more underclassmen on its roster this season, but will also be losing seniors Sobol and Zac Blasioli, who were key to the Oilers’ success.
Sobol was 4th for the second straight season at 106 points at 1A state this year, while Blasioli became the second state champion in school history, winning the title at 132 pounds. He was 2nd at 152 as a junior and also placed 6th at state at 160 as a freshman.
Donohoo comes in after working tirelessly with the Roxana Outlaws youth wrestling program. He’s a Roxana wrestling product who was a 2-time state medalist for the Shells and has a passion for the sport.
“He’s taking on a lot of responsibility. I don’t think he’s ever gotten away from wrestling,” Gockel said. “He wrestled in high school and went to state and then went to college and tried to wrestle, but had some injuries and things that set him back, but he stayed with it. When he had an opportunity, he was always volunteering or helping out with the wrestling program at Roxana and then he started the youth program and has been doing it for 10-plus years over there. We feel like he knows a lot of our wrestlers that have gone through his system, and again we think he’ll be able to get a larger number of student-athletes out for the program.”
The boys basketball head coaching position still remains open. The EA-WR school board will meet again on May 2 or 9 and hopefully that vacancy will be addressed then.
Gockel said the Oilers are still accepting applications and looking for qualified individuals who fit the mold of their program.
“That’s going to be a work in progress until it gets filled,” he said. “We’ve had some interest, but nothing really to worry about at this point. We’re just trying to get the word out with advertisements and postings and we think over time we will get a very qualified candidate to fill that position.”
Unfortunately this spring saw the loss of boys tennis at EA-WR. When Parmentier retired last season, the school decided to cut ties with the program instead of finding a new coach. Numbers were low and it was a budget decision.
“Tennis is a little different,” Gockel said. “The Board of Education said we are no longer going to have tennis for the foreseeable future with the way the finances are in the school district. I don’t see that program coming back any time soon.”
Girls tennis will continue next spring. The Oilers have a state championship under their belt on the girls side from 1992 when sister Amy and Sara Hazen won the doubles crown.
Gockel believes some of the success on the sports landscape for EA-WR this school year can help build interest in Oiler athletics. Second-year head coach Garry Herron led the football program to a 6-4 record and their first playoff appearance since 2006, which created much buzz around the school. Throw in Sobol and Blasioli’s exploits in golf and wrestling and a good start to the spring for softball and EA-WR is enjoying some fruitful times in sports. Softball entered Tuesday with a 7-4 mark after beating Collinsville 2-1 and had won 4 out of 5 games.
“I think you see the success our student athletes can have here,” Gockel said. “If you work hard, you can meet some of your goals and meet some of the expectations you have as a program and as a coach. I think over time that’s what we’re hoping to develop in all the programs. We want to get coaches that can develop the student-athletes and get them motivated to excel.
“In football we made the playoffs, in wrestling we had (Blasioli) win at state and (Drew Sobol) place at state and the softball team is off to a great start this year. Success will help bring people into the program and that’s why we’re trying to find the right match for the coach and for the kids to get them interested again and get them motivated and the success they can have.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: EA-WR filled 3 of its 4 coaching vacancies on Tuesday at the School Board meeting and the results weren’t received until after press time in this week’s print edition of the AdVantage News. This is an updated version of this week’s print column.