The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 29, 2008

Central Cambria coach accused of biting wrestler to resign


EBENSBURG — Mike Marshall, yanked as wrestling coach at Central Cambria High School after he reportedly bit a team member in the thigh, will resign to avoid prosecution on assault charges.

He told area sports writers and school officials that resigning to have the charges dropped is the best thing for his career as a $31,000-a-year juvenile probation officer with Cambria County’s court system.

Marshall initially was placed on administrative leave late last week, after barely one season as wrestling coach for Central Cambria’s Red Devils.

That action was sparked by reports that Marshall, who had been openly critical of what he called the high school wrestlers’ “lack of discipline,” bit a student during practice last week.

The boy’s parents reported the alleged incident to Cambria Township police, who investigated.

The incident capped a growing level of teammates’ discontent with Marshall as coach, school officials said, and some wrestlers were beginning to boycott practice.

In turn, Marshall told area sports writers that he thought he didn’t have the support of school sports officials.

Central Cambria administrators declined to comment on Marshall’s coaching or the details that led to his placement on administrative leave, citing the legal confidentiality of personnel laws.

Cambria Township police said it’s up to the victim whether to press assault charges, and that the victim could agree to drop any charges if satisfied that other action was taken.

District Attorney Patrick Kiniry said his office had not received any assault charges against Marshall. Neither had the office of District Magistrate Fred Creany.

Central Cambria Superintendent Susan Makosy declined to comment on the circumstances that led to Marshall’s abrupt removal from the team just before the Thomas Automotive Family Tournament in Bedford last weekend.

She did confirm that Marshall was placed on administrative leave, explaining that only the Central Cambria school board could make a decision to fire someone.

Marshall declined comment when reached at his job at the county’s Juvenile Probation Department in Ebensburg.

“I’m not confirming or denying anything,” he said.

But those involved with the incident said Marshall was given the choice of resigning or being fired by the school board.

School officials Tuesday said Marshall had informed them that he intends to resign on the condition that the family of the bitten wrestler does not pursue criminal charges.

Asked about that, Marshall wouldn’t comment.

Parents of wrestlers have been increasingly concerned about Marshall’s temper as a coach, parents and school officials said. Marshall told sports writers that some wrestlers gave him the cold shoulder when he attended last weekend’s tournament.

The District 6 wrestling Web site lists the Red Devils as having a 6-7 record this season. They did not qualify for the Class AA dual-meet tournament, which begins this week.

Marshall was replaced by assistant coach Mike George, a Central Cambria graduate who led the Red Devils to a 15th-place finish at Bedford.

Cambria County personnel Director Ron Baker said Marshall was hired by the county in 2005 as a juvenile probation officer.

He said no negative reports or incidents involving Marshall appeared in personnel records.

Marshall, a Bedford High School graduate, won District 5 Class AA titles in 1989 and 1990 and finished fourth in the state as a senior.

He went on to play college football at IUP and later played professionally in a number of indoor football leagues, including stints with the Johnstown J-Dogs and Riverhawks.