ORION — A 1981 Orion High School graduate and a longtime mainstay of the Charger wrestling coach staff, Jeff Ferry had planned for this season to be his last before calling it a career.
As things turned out, this final season will also be his first as head coach of the Orion varsity squad following many years as the right-hand man to Bob Mitton and then to former prep teammate Dan Diamond.
Diamond, who was dismissed as head coach last June before being reinstated the following month, will technically be Ferry's assistant as he winds down his coaching career after this season. However, Ferry views it more as an equal partnership.
"This was going to be Dan's last year and mine too, long before all of this came down," Ferry said. "I've worked under him for a number of years. He's still got a lot of input into the program."
Faced with a delayed and shortened season that will include no IHSA-sanctioned postseason events, this is not the head-coaching debut Ferry envisioned.
"I got the job about a week before the season started," he said. "I've been involved with the high school and middle school programs, so this has been as smooth a transition as can be, especially for a COVID year, but there have been a lot of obstacles in my opinion.
"Going up against other sports that we don't normally compete with, like track and baseball, along with overlapping with the football and soccer seasons. Plus, for the longest time it was up in the air if we were going to have a season."
The delayed start of a season that normally takes place during the winter months wound up costing the Chargers one of their top performers from the 2019-20 campaign.
Junior Allen Catour finished 33-6 at 145 pounds last season, placing second at regionals and earning an individual sectional title before placing fifth at the IHSA Class 1A state meet in Champaign.
With the uncertainty over whether or not a season would happen in Illinois, he transferred to Davenport Assumption.
Competing at 160 pounds, Catour finished 26-4 this past season and took third at the Iowa Class 2A state meet. He also won sectional and district titles and was second at the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet.
Orion does have some proven wrestlers back, led by senior Noah Schnerre. He finished 41-10 at 152 pounds and was eighth at the state meet. Also back are senior and 182-pound regional runner-up Josh Fair (35-5) and sophomore Luke Moen, who tallied a 28-13 record.
"For our seniors, I'm glad we're having a season," Ferry said, "and for our underclassmen, it's good to have something under their belt. I think we should've had the season in the regular time, from November to February, when the kids were ready to go then.
"I feel bad for the kids. They're the ones that ultimately suffered through this."