Coach is fired, then has his donated equipment taken from him

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Think you had a bad month? Try comparing it to longtime Chesapeake (Md.) High wrestling coach Rick Couch. First, the man who has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to the school's wrestling program was told he wouldn't be re-hired for the 2011-12 school year. Then he was told that the $20,000 worth of equipment his own nonprofit donated to the program over the past decade now belongs to the school, not to his organization.

Needless to say, Couch is not pleased.

Chesapeake wrestlers protest the firing of coach Rick Couch
Chesapeake wrestlers protest the firing of coach Rick Couch

That's why, according to the Annapolis Capital, Couch is filing suit against the school district, trying to get back his equipment, or a fair equitable valuation of it. The school district won't comment on the matter except to acknowledge that there is an ongoing dispute about who rightfully owns the wrestling equipment at Chesapeake High School.

As one might expect, the issue is hardly a straightforward one. Couch's non-profit is named Chesapeake Wrestling, the same name as the school. When it raised funds, it did so with the understanding that those donations would eventually help out the Chesapeake High wrestling program.

Still, it was owned and run entirely by Couch, which is why he feels that he has a right to the equipment, or at least the relative cost it could require to replace it. Without the influx of cash from Couch's non-profit, the longtime coach contends that Chesapeake's wrestling team wouldn't have had new uniforms in 12-13 years and would still be working out on very old, worn down mats.

For what it's worth, Couch's longtime players are lining up behind him, and not their school or its officials. A group of more than 15 Chesapeake players protested in front of the school Thursday, waving signs and trying to get attention for their former coach's plight. They also were more than happy to tell Capital writer Tim Pratt how they felt about the ongoing dispute.

Wrestler Kyle Gittins, who will be a senior this fall, said Couch "brought the team together." Bringing in a new coach will create "a totally different" team dynamic, he said.

Gittins also doesn't agree with the school's decision to replace Couch, and to keep the equipment Chesapeake Wrestling purchased.

"It's wrong what they did to him," Gittins said.

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