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Lathrop hires new coach

Steven Wichman brings VOL experience to Spartans

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Lathrop hires new coach

Steven Wichman watches the action as Kimball High’s sophomore head football coach in a Valley Oak League game against Sierra in 2011.

WAYNE THALLANDER/Special to the Bulletin

POSTED January 18, 2013 12:12 a.m.

No stranger to the Valley Oak League, Steven Wichman isn’t straying too far from home.

The 28-year-old Tracy native has taken over as the varsity head football coach at Lathrop High. Wichman replaces Jesse Rodriguez, who was 4-35 in the school’s first four varsity seasons.

“The VOL holds a special place in my heart,” said Wichman, a 2002 graduate of West High who has served as Kimball’s sophomore head coach the past three years. “It is a very competitive league, and there is a lot of integrity from all of the programs. I think there is a great amount of respect from leagues that surround us because it competes at such a high level and has success in the postseason.”

Wichman was a three-sport athlete at West when the school was a VOL member. He starred at the varsity level in baseball for three seasons and was also the varsity quarterback during his junior and senior campaigns. Wichman broke through during his two-year stint at Delta College and earned a scholarship to play for the University of Idaho. There, he was a two-year starter and earned bachelor degrees in communication and psychology.

Wichman is currently a special education teacher at Venture Academy Family of Schools, a San Joaquin County of Education charter school.

Lathrop Dean of Athletics Bill Slikker said that of the pool of 30 candidates, those whom he deemed to be “the top six” were the ones interviewed. Wichman had one big advantage: Slikker was a basketball coach at West during his playing days there. His familiarity with the area was also key.

“Obviously, having the connection with him before factored in,” Slikker said. “I know what he stands for, and we have some of the same mentors. Playing at the (NCAA) Division I level obviously doesn’t hurt, and playing quarterback was a big thing for me — that’s the general of a football team.

“I’m excited,” Slikker added. “I love basketball but let’s be honest, football is the main sport at every school. I want to see something positive come out of this, and I think he brings that enthusiasm to make it happen.”

Wichman’s coaching staff includes familiar names. Ricky Martinez (RB/DB) and Steven Dunigan (DL, special teams) are assistants on the varsity team. They were key members of Manteca High’s 2001 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team. Wichman’s uncle, John Morris — who previously coached at Weston Ranch, West and Tracy — is defensive coordinator.

Then there’s dad Rob Wichman, an assistant for teams that both of his sons — the other being Tracy High graduate Casey (2008-10) — played and coached for. Rob will lead the offensive linemen.

“I can’t have dad out of the picture. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Steven Wichman said.

Remaining on the Lathrop staff are Chuck Garcia (varsity WR/TE coach) and Ross Tisdale (sophomore defensive coordinator). Veda Franklin (sophomore head), Fred Juarez (sophomore OL/DL) and Clinton Golbrisch (freshman head) are also on board.

Wichman and the rest of the coaches met with players on Wednesday to introduce themselves and discuss the offseason conditioning program. The coaches are meeting next week to begin installing offensive and defensive philosophies.

“It’s been a great experience staffing all three levels, but without the players there is no program,” Wichman said. “We are going to need the commitment, dedication and hard work from them in order for us to have a chance to compete. It was definitely nice to see all in one setting (Wednesday).”

On Feb. 1, they will meet again. That’s when then the 2013 season begins in the weight room.

“Lathrop reminds me of Tracy when I grew up in the town,” Wichman said. “Lathrop’s got a special and unique feel about it because it is a small community, and you can tell that there is a lot of pride within the town. I feel like Lathrop High is place with athletes that are hungry to succeed, and I hope we can give them an opportunity to do that.”

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