Justin Wooley, an assistant head coach for the Fontainebleau wrestling team last season, has been named head coach of the program, the school announced Monday.
Wooley, 28, succeeds James Ballantyne. The two were teammates at Pearl River, where they wrestled for Ballantyne’s father, Jim.
Wooley placed in three state meets while at Pearl River — once each in the 140, 145, and 152-pound divisions. He is a graduate of LSU and currently teaches math at Fontainebleau. Before his time at FHS, he was a teacher and assistant track coach at Livonia for two years.
Wooley said the transition to head coach should be seamless.
“When I found out that coach Ballantyne was stepping down, it was a bit disappointing because he’s a fantastic coach and he built a fantastic program,” Wooley said. “But we have the same core values. We are always student before athlete, and we’re about sportsmanship, being a good citizen, having a good work ethic. Skills on the mat are third, really.”
The formula worked well under Ballantyne. The Bulldogs finished second in district last season and had two wrestlers place at the state meet.
Wooley said the program “is built for success,” and the team he inherits should be improved.
“We were such a young team last year,” he said. “We had 30 guys, and only eight or nine of them had any experience. We had no returning state place-finishers. But we did place two at state, and they’re coming back. Plus, we only lost one senior. So, it’s a program on the rise.”
Fontainebleau officials were happy to have Wooley ascend the coaching ranks. Ballantyne, meanwhile, will continue to teach at the school but will not coach.
“I hate to lose coach Ballantyne,” Fontainebleau Principal Johnny Vitrano said. “He was a strong influence on his athletes, both on and off the mat. Coach Wooley is an easy choice to fill his shoes. He believes in the same philosophy as Jimmy, and we fully expect him to build on the foundation coach Ballantyne has handed him.”