With his program expected to have a big year, Cooperstown wrestling coach Micaiah Abts would naturally like to keep the focus on the mat.

“I am so excited to be back,” the Redskins’ coach said in what will be his fourth and most likely final season in Cooperstown. “We have built a nice foundation. I am excited to see where the kids and the program have gone. We have gone from being an afterthought to being something that is in the conversation.”

It is the off-the-mat conversations that have been difficult.

“I wish we didn’t have to talk about it,” he said. “I prefer to focus on the wrestling and the good year that I expect my guys to have.”

During the summer, Abts said he learned that he would not be returning to Cooperstown Central School as a teacher — he taught middle school English — and would have to reapply for his coaching position. Abts said the decision came about because of a personality conflict with a CCS administrator.

Cooperstown Superintendent C.J. Hebert did not respond to a request for comment.

When the coaching position was advertised, several parents and wrestlers gave their support to Abts, speaking out publically and privately to school officials.

“That’s really gratifying to me,” he said. “I think I do a good job. I hope I do a good job, but it is nice to hear it from the wrestlers and their parents.”

Abts is now teaching part time at Unatego. In retrospect, he said that the controversy has been a blessing in disguise.

“My wife was a basketball player. She doesn’t really understand (wrestling). We have young kids, and with everything that happened, we talked about it and thought that maybe this would be a good time for me to step away for a while and be with the kids more while they are young,” he said.

“I started with this group of seniors, so I am happy to be here to see what we have built,” he continued. “We don’t have a big junior class, so there is that natural break there anyway. Maybe it is a good time for me to move, and some new young coach to come in. At the same time, we have built something up and that feels good.”

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