A victory for Coatesville, too

Posted: March 10, 2014

Coatesville got what it deserved Saturday night.

Six months after the school year began with news of a racially charged string of text messages between the superintendent and athletic director, there's a new face of the Coatesville Area School District and its community.

Mike Boykin, state wrestling champion.

Mike Boykin, superstrong senior.

Mike Boykin, black student.

How sweet that is.

Boykin won a state title Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey by defeating Jordan Wood of Boyertown in the 220-pound final.

The victory completed an unbeaten (40-0) season for Boykin, a standout wrestler and football lineman, as well as his mission to make it to the top, after a disappointing state tournament as a sophomore and a bronze-medal finish last year.

The Red Raiders' second state wrestling champion, and first since Terry Williams in 1966, Boykin deserves the title.

So does the Coatesville community.

The texting scandal between then-superintendent Richard Como and then-athletic director Jim Donato put a stain on the school district and city. If you missed it - and considering the story was reported nationally, likely few of you did - Como and Donato allegedly engaged in a rather lengthy exchange of text messages in which they casually, and callously, tossed around racial epithets.

All this happened in a school district in which half the students are minorities. As football coach Matt Ortega put it shortly after the scandal broke, "Our strength is our diversity."

Como resigned. Donato resigned.

The scandal, though, lingered. So, too, did the sting.

Now, for at least a while, the community can enjoy having a new face.

I first met Boykin in January 2013, and wrote about his rise to state-caliber wrestler at a school more known for its basketball and, more recently, football success.

He came across as humble, quiet, and proud. He referred to himself as the "strongest guy in the school" - he certainly looked the part - and said it more sheepishly than boastfully.

He and I talked again at a football practice after the texting scandal had broken. He downplayed the incident, saying, "We don't worry about that stuff."

Boykin had tuned out the negative before.

He started his sophomore season 40-1 and made it to the state tournament, and then he looked at the surroundings in the Giant Center and nerves set in. He still won his first state match, but promptly dropped his next two bouts, in the quarterfinals and in the consolation bracket.

Bent on improving on that, and not falling victim to nerves, he lost again in last year's state quarterfinals. But in contrast to 2012, he won out from that point to finish third at 220 pounds.

Boykin was a machine the last few days in Hershey, winning by a 12-4 decision; a pin in 1 minute, 41 seconds; a 9-4 decision in the semifinals; and then the triumph over Wood that enabled him to stand atop the medal podium.

It was a fitting moment.

For Boykin.

For Coatesville.


rabitol@phillynews.com

215-854-2916

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