Perhaps the strangest eight-day stretch in the history of the Buena Regional High School wrestling program came to an end after an off-the-mat reversal of sorts.
Doug Castellari, who was fired as head coach of the Buena wrestling team Feb. 11, was reinstated by athletic director Dave Albertson on Tuesday afternoon.
Castellari will coach the team through the upcoming District 32, Region 8 and state individual tournaments.
Castellari seemed eager to move on when reached by phone Tuesday evening.
“We (Albertson and Castellari) finally had a long conversation in Dave’s office and it worked out well,” Castellari said. “It was a little bit of a misunderstanding but it worked out good.”
Castellari did say, however, that he plans on retiring as head coach following this season, his 24th as a head coach of the Chiefs after four years as an assistant.
He will remain president of the wrestling booster club and plans on continuing to help the team in a volunteer capacity.
“It’s just time,” Castellari said, insisting the decision to retire this season had nothing to do with the recent events. “It’s just time — that’s all.”
Albertson released a statement when letting Castellari go saying that the longtime coach could no longer “fulfill the responsibilities and obligations” for the job “due to a recent career change.”
The two met in Albertson’s office Tuesday.
“We met today and Doug’s work schedule has changed to where it will allow him to be here as a full-time head coach to where he can meet all responsibilities and obligations as coach,” Albertson said.
Albertson, like Castellari, said there was no ill will between parties.
“We look forward to Doug being back on the sideline and being coach into the district, region and state tournaments,” Albertson said. “Doug has been here a long time.
“I’m just glad we were able to work this out and have a conversation today and he’s back as our head coach.”
Castellari and the Chiefs went 12-5 this season and reached the South Jersey Group I tournament, losing 45-22 to Collingswood in the first round Feb. 11.
Castellari is 10th on South Jersey’s all-time wins list with a 318-152-3 career record and trails only Gene Barber (507) on the Cape-Atlantic League’s all-time list.
The Chiefs won their 14th CAL National title under Castellari this season.
Castellari said he was overwhelmed by support from friends, family and the local wrestling community in the eight days before getting rehired.
He said he got countless calls, texts and e-mails from supporters.
“I was really taken aback,” Castellari said. “I had a ton of support and I just really want to thank everyone.”
Two-time District 32 champ Dillan Berghof and three-time District 32, three-time Region 8 champ Billy Ward are among the team’s individuals expected to make a deep run into the tournament.
Castellari can’t wait to get things started on Friday at Absegami on opening night of the District 32 tournament.
“I didn’t want to leave Buena with a bad taste in my mouth,” Castellari said. “I’m ready to move on and go forward. This is the best time of the year for wrestling.”
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