When Darrell Luebbert was wrestling for the Jefferson City Jays, he envisioned being the leader of the program.
Luebbert’s dream became reality Tuesday, as he was officially announced as the next head coach of the Jays’ boys wrestling team.
“I told coach (Steve) Johnson, the head coach that was here when I was here, that one day I would be leading this program,” he said. “Fifteen, 20 years later, here it is. I am just glad I get the opportunity to take the next step. We have a winning tradition here and I just want to keep it going.”
Luebbert graduated from Jefferson City in 2003 and was a three-time wrestling state qualifier for the Jays while tallying up more than 100 career victories.
After graduation, Luebbert attended Missouri Valley College in Marshall to wrestle -- where he helped lead the Vikings to a regional title and two top-three finishes in the NAIA during his time there.
Following the end of his wrestling career, Luebbert spent a year as a graduate assistant for Missouri Valley before a short tenure at South Callaway High School as a physical education teacher along with being an assistant coach in both football and baseball.
But for the past 10 years, Luebbert has been working his way through the ranks at Jefferson City School District, starting as a middle school teacher and coach, transitioning to a high school assistant to now being the head coach at the high school level.
“It’s very humbling,” he said. “I went from middle school assistant and I’ve worked my way all the way to the head coach now. I know the steps it takes and I know the time commitment it takes.”
It was no secret the job was going to be open after the resignation of former coach Phil Cagle in the middle of this past season.
Jefferson City delayed the official coaching search until after the conclusion of the season to allow the focus of the team to be on its success.
“We knew it was going to be posted with what happened,” Luebbert said. “We knew throughout the year that administration was going to let us finish out the year wrestling wise, so we could focus on the season before we started our interviews.”
Luebbert found out he got the job right before the end-of-the-year wrestling banquet and the school first announced the hiring via a social media post March 14.
There was a flood of emotions for Luebbert following the news he got his dream job.
“Family first, I told my wife and we had some good emotions with that,” he said. “My wife and my two kids are all on board.”
Luebbert, along with Nathan Redcay -- who was the interim coach for a majority of last season -- were both interviewed for the opening.
The two had an agreement the other would stay on staff for whichever got the position.
“We both want what is best for the program,” Luebbert said. “Redcay is a great coach, he knows his stuff. We both said, ‘If you get it, I want on your staff and if I get it, I want you on my staff.’ We sat down and had that talk, we both know what our goals are and we both know what our goals are for the program.”
Redcay will be an assistant on staff, Christian Mayberry will join him, Jalen Laughlin will remain the Lewis and Clark Middle School head coach while helping out at the varsity and JV level following the conclusion of the middle school season and the Jays are exploring the opportunity to add a fourth assistant.
Luebbert takes over a program that loses only two seniors from last year’s team and will return five state qualifiers.
This has only made the transition into the head coach position easier for Luebbert.
“Oh yeah, much easier,” he said. “Anytime you step up and you look and you’re getting 10 of your starters back out of the 14, you’re in a really good spot. … We are sitting pretty.”
Luebbert has already checked some boxes off his to-do list following his promotion, as he started with the coaching staff, let the team know what will be coming next and now is focused on off-season preparation and training.
Increasing the roster size, beating crosstown rivals, winning the Central Missouri Activities Conference title for the second straight season and placing top 10 at state are some of the goals Luebbert mentioned.
“Hopefully we are going to increase our numbers, we have 23 eighth-graders coming up on the boys side, so we are going to double numbers,” he said. “Ultimate goals are to beat crosstown rivals like Helias, win the CMAC again, keep that going, hopefully compete for a district title and then top 10 in state.”