E.A. Sports Today

Ready for Routon

Longtime Southside coach’s appointment approved by Oxford board, will become Yellow Jackets’ next head wrestling coach

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Kyle Routon’s roots in Southside run so deep he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to leave. And he really wasn’t looking to this time, but when the perfect situation came his way he had to consider it.

Routon will leave the friendly confines of Etowah County to become Oxford’s new wrestling head coach and junior high football coach after the school board approved his appointment this morning.

KYLE ROUTON

He had been Southside’s head wrestling coach, head softball coach and was to be the football team’s defensive coordinator this season.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” Routon said. “I wasn’t really looking to leave but of course if people called me I would listen. Oxford called and I felt good about it from the beginning. I talked to several people who have left their home schools and not heard one person say they regretted it, leaving home.

“When I talk about home, I mean deeply rooted home. 1927 was the first graduating class from Southside and my great, great granddad was part of it. There are like five Routon Roads around here. It had to be right for me to leave and it was. Everything about it is right.”

Routon succeeds Matt Hicks who left the Jackets after winning two state wrestling championships to coach wrestling, softball and varsity football at Pinson Valley. He actually accepted the job Friday afternoon and Etowah County already has posted his position.

Ironically, he almost came to Oxford four years ago to be then-coach Matt Tanner’s assistant, but the timing “just wasn’t right,” he said.

“I never really thought I would leave when I first started,” Routon said. “It definitely had to be a good job. I was told when I was younger two things to look at when you’re looking at moving is (a) can it help you financially or with your family and (b) will it help you professionally. This move is both.”

Routon may be only 28, but he brings a decade of coaching experience to the Yellow Jackets; he was coaching the Southside linebackers at age 19.

Routon’s wrestlers finished second in the state five times since he ostensibly took control of the program in 2012 – every year between 2014 and 2017. He has produced 18 individual state champions and sent seven wrestlers to college scholarships. The Panthers won a state title in 2010, his second season as an assistant there.

The 2017 team had some serious battles with Oxford, finishing second to the Yellow Jackets in both the State Duals Championship in Birmingham and the State Championship in Huntsville.

The Panthers had an off year in 2018 with a team Routon considered second best in the state to Oxford but “pretty much had everything you’d want to draw up to go wrong in a state wrestling tournament.”

The Oxford team he inherits has the foundation to win another state title and that has the new coach excitedly nervous. He has five state runner-up finishes; the coach he replaces has five state championships.

“I feel like it’s coming in and it’s state championship or bust – because the guys returning have a great chance to win it,” he said. “I definitely feel pressure from that standpoint.

“I thought I would be nervous about it, but I’m excited to get going. Sometimes you get in the same rhythm, the same pattern; this is just a complete change. I’m excited to get started. If I could start practice tomorrow I would.”

Photo credit: B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos

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