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Wrestling coach killed in Florida school shooting

A popular wrestling coach originally from Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley was among the 17 individuals killed in a school shooting in southern Florida Wednesday.

Chris Hixon
Chris Hixon, mat coach and athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was among those shot and killed in the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. in Broward County just north of Miami.

Hixon was confirmed dead early Thursday morning. The native of Easton, Pa. and Pleasant Valley High School alum was 49.

Just last year Hixon had been named Broward County Athletic Association's athletic director of the year.

Hixon was previously South Broward High's athletic director before taking over at Stoneman Douglas High School. In 2007, his stint with the Bulldogs was put on hold as he had been ordered for deployment to Iraq as a U.S. Naval Reservist.

Stoneman Douglas head football coach Willis May said Hixon and assistant football coach Aaron Feis both served as school security guards. May labeled both coaches as heroes because they ran toward the scene to try to help others to safety, saying, "when something goes down, they are the first ones to rush in."

Coaches and administrators from other nearby high schools offered praises for Chris Hixon.

"Chris is such a great guy," Coral Springs High School athletic director Dan Jacob, who, like Hixon, is also the school's wrestling coach, told the Sun-Sentinel, a newspaper serving southern Florida. "Chris is probably the nicest guy I have ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back. He does so much. That is terrible that it would happen to anybody. It is so senseless."

Allen Held, Cypress Bay wrestling coach when Hixon was AD at the school, said "Chris was a super human being. The kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

"If you needed something he was the first one there. He would do anything as an athletic director to make your program better and he was a better person than athletic director. We used to talk wrestling all of the time and make fun of each other because that's what we do. To me, he was a great friend and a brother in life."

Cypress Bay athletic director Scott Selvidge offered this perspective on working with Hixon: "As a younger athletic director, he always made himself available to answer my questions and help. He was well respected among his peers and always willing to go the extra mile. It is just devastating."

A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Chris Hixon last visited Easton in May 2016. He returned to his hometown to visit his dad Russ and spend time with his 92-year-old grandmother Florence.

"We were up last night late," Dave Hixon told Easton Express-Times from his home on Centre Street on Easton's South Side, just one door away from his brother -- and Chris' dad -- Russ. "At 1:30 in morning, we found out he passed."

Chris Hixon lived on South Ninth Street in Easton until his mid-teens, his uncle said. He went to elementary and middle school in the city before moving with his mother to Monroe County and playing sports at Pleasant Valley High School, Dave Hixon said.

Chris joined the Navy after high school, Dave Hixon said. Chris then went into the Naval Reserve, and was sent to Iraq in 2007.

Chris went to college after his first stint in the service and got into coaching and athletic administration in Florida, his uncle said.

Although originally from the Lehigh Valley, Chris Hixon had strong roots within south Florida. Hixon's father was a wrestling coach at Boyd Anderson High School. Chris Hixon's career as an athletic director began at Blanche Ely High before going to South Broward, then Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Chris Hixon studied at Broward College, and was a member of a Roman Catholic church in Hollywood, Fla. He is survived by his wife Debra, and two children.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, is charged with killing 17 people, including Chris Hixon, on Wednesday afternoon in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a four-year public high school in the Broward County school district. Established in 1990 and named after an Everglades environmentalist, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 students.

NOTE: A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Chris Hixon family.

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