Columbia High School sports programs have enjoyed quite a run of success over the past several years with Joe Iorio serving as athletic director.
After 32 years at CHS, Iorio has decided to retire. The hope is that the Eagles will continue to soar for years to come.
“I feel fortunate to have had the coaches I’ve had, great parent support and a great foundation of kids,” Iorio said. “Seeking kids accomplish their goals has been satisfying.”
Iorio attributed much of the athletic success at CHS to the quality of coaching with little turnover.
He mentioned Mark Sandstrom in boys basketball, Scott Horner and Scott Germain in football and Germain in girls basketball, Dave Touchette as an assistant softball coach as well as the baseball coaching tree of Dusty Nail to assistants Keith Jany and Neal O’Donnell, who went on to lead that program.
“They’re all good coaches who put kids in the right positions to succeed,” Iorio said.
State titles for Columbia include baseball in 1987 and 2007, cheerleading in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, boys soccer in 2014 and girls soccer in 2019.
Iorio grew up in Kewanee, which is north of Peoria, and went on to play football at Eureka College before finishing his college studies at Western Illinois University.
“I was OK,” Iorio said of his football abilities. He played linebacker and tight end.
He began teaching and coaching at Atkinson, which is a small town east of Moline. There, he coached football and boys basketball.
In 1987, Iorio came to Columbia and served as an assistant coach in football under the legendary Jerry Germain. He was also an assistant in both boys and girls hoops and served as the head track coach.
“I was a little busy those first few years,” Iorio remembers.
He went on to become the head football coach for several years and remained the track coach until 2006.
Among his highlights as athletic director, Iorio talked about the 2007 baseball state champs, 2014 boys soccer state champs and 2019 girls soccer state champs.
The 2007 baseball team placed fourth at state the year before, Iorio remembers, and Nail made his players sit and watch the title game.
“To come back there and win it the very next year, that was special,” Iorio said.
The 2014 boys soccer team won its semifinal game on a cold Friday night, Iorio remembers, but he had to drive back for a Columbia playoff football game and didn’t get to see the title match.
This past spring, Iorio went out with a bang as he got to watch his daughter, Rylee, win a state title with the girls soccer team. She was the starting goalkeeper for the Eagles.
“I’ve enjoyed watching other parents celebrate state titles with their kids and then this year I got to do it myself when the girls won,” he said. “That was definitely the icing on the cake for me.”
He’s noticed that especially in recent years, the soccer community is a tight-knit bunch.
“In soccer, the parents are a tighter group than in the other sports,” he said. “They all seem to run together, celebrate together.”
In retirement, Iorio said he hopes to help out with high school sports in some capacity.
“I’d like to go across the river and help out somewhere as an assistant A.D.,” Iorio said. “That would still give me time to watch my kids in college. We’ll see what happens.”
The Iorio triplets – Rylee, J.T. and Tucker –graduated this spring. Rylee will play soccer at Union University. J.T. is attending Southern Illinois University Carbondale and will be a member of the Marching Salukis. Tucker received a STEM scholarship to attend Southwestern Illinois College.
Joe who is married to wife Amy, also has two older daughters, Tasha and Taylor.
“Back in 1987, I decided to make Columbia home. All five of my kids graduated from CHS,” Iorio said. “Our whole family bleeds Columbia blue.”