KEEVER GETS HIS DUE.
John Keever figured he would not be at Moorpark College long.
It was 1969 and he was interviewing for a teaching job an assistant coaching position with the school's football team.
A recent graduate of Chico State University, Keever would use Moorpark as a stepping stone on his way to a head coaching job somewhere else. After that, maybe he'd get a job in the National Football League.
But first he needed the job at Moorpark.
During the interview, Keever was asked if he could also coach wrestling and track at Moorpark. Of course, he answered, even though he had no previous coaching - or playing - experience in either sport.
``That's what you do when you need a job,'' Keever said.
Nearly 30 years later, Keever still hasn't landed a head coaching position in football - or left Moorpark College.
And when John Keever is inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame tonight at the Doubletree Inn in Ventura, he'll do so as the unofficial dean of junior college wrestling coaches.
``The guy never wrestled a match in his life yet he made himself into a great coach,'' said Dan Martin, who wrestled under Keever and later coached with him. ``He's what you consider a coach's coach. He can coach anything. That's why I respect him so much.''
Keever retired from coaching in 1995. His career included two state wrestling championships (1990, 1991) and 17 Western State Conference Championships.
All of this from someone who had done ``a little'' intramural wrestling in college.
``I went to as many clinics, read as many books and picked as many minds as I possibly could to get better,'' Keever said. ``It was on-the-job training.''
Keever also found time to be an assistant coach for the football team and help develop five state javelin champions on the track team.
And he's enjoyed every moment of it.
``I have a great job,'' said Keever, Moorpark's athletic director the last five years. ``I love coming to work.''
While Keever built one of the top wrestling programs in California, his greatest joy is working on the community college level. Often viewed as a last chance for most student/athletes, Keever believes otherwise.
A graduate of Ventura College in 1964, Keever is a product of the system. He considers community college a viable alternative for students not yet ready to attend a major university out of high school.
``There's no greater joy then watching somebody you worked with go on to a four-year school and improve themselves. Not just in sports, but in life,'' Keever said. ``There's a great sense of accomplishment and success in that.''
Keever's most cherished moment in coaching was leading the Raiders to the state wrestling championship in 1990. They successfully defended their title in 1991.
Two factors made the championships special. Keever had nearly given up hope in finding the right mix of athletes and chemistry to win the title. And he wondered if he would ever field a state championship team while staying true to his belief that a community college team should reflect the community it's in.
``Every kid on that team lived at home in the area and drove to school,'' Keever said. ``I'm very proud of that.''
Martin, an assistant on those teams, remembers Keever as a coach who was positive with his athletes but not afraid to get confrontational if the situation dictated.
``He would take kids that finished fourth (in their league) in high school and turn them into the fourth best wrestler in the state in their freshman year,'' Martin said. ``The thing that stands out is how organized he is. He had practice laid out to the minute. It was 4:55 p.m., drink water. 5 p.m., conditioning. That's the same way he teaches. There were never any surprises.''
Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame Inductees:
Who: Dave Laut.
Sport: Track and field.
What he did: A graduate of Santa Clara High School in Oxnard and UCLA, Laut won a bronze medal in the shot put at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1982 he established an American record with a mark of 72 feet, three inches. Earned a gold medal in the 1979 Pan American Games. Was the NCAA shot put champion in 1978 and 1979.
What he's doing now: Laut returned to his roots seven years ago and is now a biology and anatomy/physiology teacher at Santa Clara High School. He coaches track and field at Ventura College. Who: Jack Farrell.
Sport: Cross country, track and field coach at Thousand Oaks High School.
What he did: Farrell took over the track and field and cross country programs at Thousand Oaks in 1974. Soon after, the Lancers began to dominate. His boys' cross country teams won state championships in 1993 and 1994, were runners-up in 1992 and earned Marmonte League titles nine times. The girls' teams won Southern Section titles in 1993 and 1994 and placed second in State in 1994. They've won eight Marmonte League titles.
What he's doing now: Farrrell coaches cross country and track at Thousand Oaks. He has taught advanced placement English at the school since 1978.
Who: John Keever.
Sport: Wrestling coach, Moorpark College.
What he did: Over a 27-year span, Keever led the Raiders to state championships in 1990 and 1991 and 17 Western State Conference championships. Keever was voted Western State Conference Coach of the Year 16 times and the Community College Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1990. He helped produce 53 All-America wrestlers at Moorpark.
What he's doing now: Keever has been athletic director at Moorpark the past five years.
Who: Gerald Haflich.
Sport: Baseball and football.
What he did: Haflich was a star athlete at Ventura High School (1976-79), Ventura College (1979-81) and Sacramento State University (1981-1983). In high school he was All-Channel League in football and baseball. Was the Channel League batting champion in 1979 with a .429 average. At Ventura College he earned all-conference baseball honors in 1980 and 1981 and was an all-state linebacker on the football team in 1980. At Sacramento State, Haflich was a All-Far Western Conference first-team linebacker in 1981 while setting a school record of 113 tackles. He was inducted into the Sacramento State Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Who: Don Green.
Sport: Track and field coach, California Lutheran University.
What he did: Built the Cal Lutheran track and field program into a Division III power. In a career that spanned 44 years, Green developed 44 athletes into All-Americans. Green died in 1995 at the age of 75.
Photo: John Keever, who coached Moorpark College to two state wrestling titles, will be inducted into the Ventura County Hall of Fame.
Tina Gerson/Daily News
Box: Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame Inducteees (see text)