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No mercy in father-son duel

Joy Allison will work the concession stand tonight to help her son, Marc, who is in his first season as coach at Dunedin.

She also is staying behind the scenes to hide from the stands. What happens in the dual meet could create some tension.

On one side, Walt, her husband of 39 years, will try to coach Pinellas Park to victory. On the other side, son Marc will be trying to stop him.

"It's going to be different," Joy said. "Not to mention stressful."

This is the second time a father-son coaching duo has opposed each other in Pinellas County. From 1991-99, former Dixie Hollins coach Mike Morey faced his father Lee, then the coach at Gibbs. Mike won all five meetings.

Yet while the Morey duels were an ongoing family affair, tonight's Allison vs. Allison matchup will be it.

Walt, 62, decided to become Pinellas Park coach for one season to give the administration time to find a long-term replacement for Scott Stern, who left in November to take over at Clearwater Central Catholic.

"This is a one-shot deal so I have to win," Walt said.

"It'll be fun," Marc said, "and intense."

The events that led to this moment came by happenstance.

After seven years working as an official, Marc, a former standout at Countryside, agreed to take the Dunedin job. He asked his father to be his assistant but was turned down. Walt, also an official, said he was enjoying retirement too much to get back into coaching.

But then Walt heard Pinellas Park was having trouble filling the position and felt obligated to help.

"The season was just a few weeks away," Walt said. "(Pinellas Park) has some really good kids and didn't want to see the program suffer."

The first-year coaches, who live seven houses from one another in Oldsmar, have bonded through the sport. Marc was introduced to wrestling when he was 4 and coached by his father until he graduated from Countryside in 1985. Walt continued to follow his son while he wrestled at Tennessee-Chattanooga from 1985-90.

So it was only natural that Walt checked the schedule once he was hired at Pinellas Park.

"When my dad told me he would he would be coaching, the first thing he said was, "See you Jan. 27,' " Marc said. "I didn't know what he was talking about until I realized he was referring to our dual meet.

Since then, Marc has been trying to make sure his dad doesn't win at his expense.

"There are no mixed emotions for me," Marc said. "I'm very one-sided for this one. We want to go out and wrestle the best that we can and win. I have one loyalty and that's to my kids who work hard every day."

Marc's competitiveness was passed down from his father.

"Those two want to win no matter what sport they're playing," Joy said. "That's why I'm trying to stay as neutral as possible."

Nearly the entire family will be on hand to watch the Allisons coach. Marc's wife, Rebekah, and sister, Kristy, plan to attend. Also sitting in the stands will be Marc's best friend from high school, Sean Kearney, who is flying home from a business trip in Seattle solely for the meet.

Walt has trumpeted up support with announcements at school. He's even testing the family's loyalty by asking it to sit on his side of the bleachers.

"I know Marc is trying to pull out all the stops, but so am I," Walt said. "I imagine we'll all go out to eat somewhere afterward. But that's only if I win. If I lose, I'm just going home and I'm never talking to Marc again."

Marc Allison, in his first year as Dunedin's wrestling coach, says facing his father should be "intense" but insists that his first loyalty is to his team: "There are no mixed emotions for me."

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