FARMINGTON — About 100 people rallied on Wednesday in support of former Piedra Vista High School head wrestling coach Levi Stout.
The demonstrators — including current wrestlers, their parents and supporters of Stout — gathered on the corner of 20th Street and Dustin Avenue near the Farmington Municipal School District office to protest the district's decision not to renew the coach's contract.
On March 22, district officials did not renew Stout's contract as the team's coach based on a recommendation from Piedra Vista's athletic department. Officials with the department provided Stout a letter of seven violations that allegedly occurred during his tenure.
Stout, who has been head coach of the wrestling team since 2007, has led the Panthers to four consecutive 4A state titles.
Stout did not attend Wednesday's protest. He said Wednesday night his attorney has advised him not to comment.
Many parents have voiced support of the coach, saying he has played an integral role in their sons' lives.
"I'm very disappointed that he was not reinstated with everything he's done for these young men, my son in particular," said Carrie Maloy, the mother of Anthony Juckes, a junior wrestler. "He brings us together not just as a coach, but he's a father figure to a lot of these young men."
Maloy said she knows one of the violations against Stout is false because it concerns her son. A 2010 incident listed in the letter raises questions about whether Stout recruited a wrestler, which would have violated New Mexico Activities Association policies. Stout's attorney, Sarah Weaver, previously told The Daily Times the incident involved Juckes.
"I'm disappointed in some of the allegations that I know are untrue because they are about my son," Maloy said.
Current Panthers wrestlers hope Wednesday's protest will help reinstate their former coach.
"Stout is a big influence," said PV freshman wrestler Dylan Greenhaus. "I just feel like I've become a much better wrestler, and I've become a much better person because of him."
Greenhaus said he was impressed with the show of support for Stout.
"The PV community is stronger than I thought," he said. "There are youth kids, there's middle school kids, there's parents and random people — people I've never seen — out here supporting him."
A petition on change.org to reinstate Stout had more than 1,350 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. The petition, which was started two weeks ago, is directed at Sandy Schumacher, president of the Farmington Municipal School District's Board of Education, and Janel Ryan, the school district's superintendent.
Ryan declined to comment on Stout's contract. She said the school district is working with its legal team in Albuquerque to draft a statement about the matter. Ryan did not know when a statement would be released.