By Andy Boogaard / The Fresno Bee
Steve and Adam Tirapelle, a father-son combination who directed Clovis High to the state wrestling championship last season, have been suspended from coaching for the remainder of the season by the Clovis Unified School District.
"The suspension was the result of findings after a multiple-month investigation following allegations of violations of district policies and coaches code of ethics, "district spokesperson Kelly Avants said.
She said the investigation was conducted by an outside firm.
Jim Crichlow, who oversees high school athletics in the Valley as commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section, said he had no involvement in the discipline. And he said he hasn't received an "official complaint "regarding the Tirapelles in his eight-year career as commissioner.
Avants said Steve Tirapelle, the program's 12-year head coach, was informed of the suspension Thursday in the office of Clovis Principal Pam Winter. Also present was district Deputy Superintendent Dan Kaiser.
"According to their investigation, I committed several violations related to recruiting, which is absolutely false, "Steve Tirapelle said. "When I asked them to elaborate, they said they didn't have to tell me.
"We don't recruit. Anything that revolves around recruiting is hearsay by jealous people and people who are not happy. We put in a reasonable time to the program, trying to give back to the sport that has blessed us with positive experiences."
Steve Tirapelle was interviewed by an investigator, but his son was not, the coaches said. They said they are prohibited from attending school matches or tournaments.
Steve Tirapelle said he was "shellshocked "by Thursday's notification, and is in the process of pursuing a response, possibly through litigation.
Avants said assistant coach Ben Holscher, a health teacher on campus, has been appointed interim head coach through the season, which started for the first-string varsity at this weekend's Clovis West Shootout. When it concludes, Avants said, it is the district's "intention "to have the Tirapelles return as coaches.
Steve Tirapelle continues to teach physical education at the school. Adam Tirapelle is an investor for Merrill Lynch, a financial management and advisory company. He said he isn't paid by the district. Generally, high school assistant coaches receive stipends.
The development is a blow to the reputation of the most prominent wresting family in Valley history, and a setback to a program given a good chance of landing a ninth state title. Their total of eight is a state record.
Steve Tirapelle has led the Cougars to five section championships and eight top-five state finishes, including two titles.
Adam Tirapelle, the oldest of three brothers, is a five-year assistant and a former two-time state champion and three-time All-American at Illinois, including one NCAA title.
Alex Tirapelle is a three-time state champion and two-time All-American at Illinois. And Troy, the youngest, is a three-time state champion. He's completing his Illinois career as a senior.
Adam Tirapelle declined comment, other than to say: "We don't know what they're accusing us of. I don't want to talk yet. We're looking into it and seeing what course of action we're going to take."