Nass carving out his own legacy

When outsiders think of South Kitsap athletics, several names come to mind.

It might be Willie Bloomquist and Jason Ellison of the Seattle Mariners, who helped lead coach Elton Goodwin to his second of three state-baseball championships in 1996. Perhaps it’s the football program that has reached the state playoffs 23 times. Or maybe it’s the boys basketball team that reached state six straight years until this season.

But no South team has exhibited more consistency throughout time than the wrestling team. Since Hall of Fame coach Ron Hudiburg retired in 2004 after 19 years at South, Chad Nass has helped the Wolves extend their Narrows League consecutive-win streak to 141 matches since 1992. He also had three wrestlers — seniors-to-be Matt Foxworthy (third place in the 215-pound competition) and Matt Miller (seventh, 285) and recently graduated Kurtis Fenton (fourth, 103) — place at Mat Classic in a “rebuilding” year.

For those reasons, Nass is the Independent’s coach of the year.

“We had a really young team,” said Nass, who had nine varsity wrestlers graduate in 2006 and only five returnees with varsity experience. “We knew that our sophomores from last year were really promising, but they kind of exceeded our expectations in how fast they blossomed. Our seniors were tremendous leaders.”

It also required some leadership from Nass, who replaced a legend and has maintained a successful program.

“It’s good and bad,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be an assistant under Ron Hudiburg for eight years, so I got to see how he ran his program. The difficult part is that you have to live up to those expectations. That’s what’s fun about that, too.”

So far, he seems to be living up to them — his predecessor is a fan.

Nass, who teaches physical education at South, wrestled under Hudiburg for the Wolves from 1990-92 and won the title in the 141-pound weight class as a senior.

“He’s a real people person and he really likes kids,” said Hudiburg, who met the elementary-school aged Nass when he moved from Port Angeles in 1984 as a elementary-schooler. “He doesn’t have his ego all wrapped up in it. He gave it all when he was a competitor and now he gives it all as the coach.”

Deandre Jackson, a senior-to-be who wrestles in the 160-pound weight class for South, agreed with the assessment.

“He’s a really hands-on coach,” he said. “He’s always there in our workouts and works just as hard as we do. We wrestle him and spar with him as with him if we need to.”

And Hudiburg also has helped him out in other ways, too — he introduced Nass to his wife, Susie, with whom he has two daughters.

Nass was raised in Port Orchard and similar to many coaches, he has established relationships with the area youth coaches to build his program. He also said he feels “there’s some credibility” within his program based on his state championship. He wrestled at Pacific Lutheran, where he earned a degree in physical education. But none of those are the major tenant he has built his program around.

“Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think the biggest thing with coaching kids is how you relate to them more so than X’s and O’s,” he said. “I think every coach at the 4A level has a really good background knowledge of the sport of wrestling, but if you can build those relationships and you can get them to exceed what they’re capable of, that’s an asset that I always am trying to reach.”

Foxworthy said Nass’ mentality is constant.

“He’s got all the qualities you would look for in a good friend,” he said. “He’s doing what he loves so he’s always got a smile on his face.”

Nass coached Purdue University’s Brent Chriswell, who won state championships in 171- and 189-pound classifications in 2005-06, but feels his best work might have been with another wrestler.

“Kurtis Fenton didn’t win a match his seventh- and eighth-grade years,” Nass said. “He goes and places fourth as a senior and to me that’s huge. That’s as big of an accomplishment as Brent Chriswell being a two-time state champion. I was as proud of Kurtis for his fourth-place finish as I was of Brent.”

Of course, the 31-year-old coach has other lofty objectives he wants to achieve.

“You always want to win a state title,” he said. “Very few coaches who have been through here have done that. Elton won three and that is pretty impressive. A team state title would be the pinnacle of what you can accomplish and if you win one, you would try and gear up and get another one.”

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