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Switch in varsity wrestling coaches leaves parents upset, board silent

The East Aurora Blue Devils varsity wrestlers will again have Keith Maute by the mats helping them, but this time as a voluntary coach.

Maute's future with the district's wrestling program was uncertain after the School Board and superintendent unexpectedly dismissed him last spring as varsity coach. The move caused an uproar in the school community among many parents whose sons Maute had guided in the program he was credited with turning around.

Since July, when news of Maute not being reappointed came up at a board meeting, school officials would not say what led to his dismissal, citing confidentiality in personnel matters. Until now, they hadn't publicly indicated how they planned to handle parents' requests to reinstate Maute.

But this month, the board appointed Maute's stepbrother, Brandon Ostrowski, as the new varsity wrestling coach. Maute has been named as the voluntary coach, or second in charge, to begin his fifth season with the Blue Devils.

It's a role reversal for the brothers, who have coached side by side before. Last year, Ostrowski, who is also well-known in wrestling circles, had been Maute's assistant -- or voluntary coach.

School officials still aren't saying much about why they switched the coaching positions.

Maute wouldn't talk publicly at the time about the issue, and when reached to comment last week, declined to discuss any specifics.

"Things are going well. I don't want to rekindle anything," he said, noting that he's fine with the voluntary coach title.

School Superintendent James Bodziak said the switch had nothing to do with unhappiness from parents.

"It wasn't done to placate the parents," he said. "Brandon has all the organizational skills and abilities to be a varsity coach at this time, and Keith knows wrestling and he cares about the kids."

Bodziak said a committee consisting of two administrators and representation from the wrestling boosters club backed the coaching decisions.

"Keith has a great deal of knowledge and experience in the wrestling arena," he said. "But his strength lies in teaching the kids techniques. The district is not compensating him. He agreed to the voluntary [status]."

The district will pay Ostrowski a $3,100 coaching stipend, but a parent said the wrestling boosters club hopes to separately compensate Maute for his voluntary coaching.

"We're very pleased to have Keith continue to be involved in the program. We think Brandon is a very good choice, as well," said parent Matthew Garvey, who last summer questioned why Maute had not been reappointed and had praised his work with the student wrestlers.


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