South Kitsap's Nass in a class all by himself

Previous recipients

2009: Michael Krug

2008: Jim Fairweather

2007: Chad Nass

2006: Eric Bergeson

2005: John Callaghan

2004: Eric Bergeson

There is no program more consistent in its league.

South Kitsap’s wrestling team has won 160 consecutive dual league matches since 1992. Among the dozen state qualifiers, each one won at least once at Mat Classic.

For those reasons, Chad Nass is the Port Orchard Independent’s Coach of the Year.

While Nass said he was honored to receive the award, he credited the Wolves’ graduating class for the team’s success. He said he was concerned about leadership within the program before the season began, but the seniors — none of whom advanced to state in 2009 — quickly alleviated those worries.

“They were determined to make it to all of the offseason stuff — weight training and freestyle practices — and they just really took charge when the season rolled around,” Nass said. “That had more to do with us getting 12 guys to the state tournament than anything.”

But junior Conner Hartmann sees more than that.

A year after not placing at state, Hartmann finished second in the Class 4A 171-pound weight class.

“He pushes me,” he said of Nass. “He’s right there running behind me and he’s telling me to keep going. He wrestles me and that improves my skills a ton. I think that’s why we improve so much every year.”

That seems normal for the Wolves. Wrestlers such as junior Cody Barich (sixth at 135) and seniors Craig Dyess (seventh at 160) and Spencer Ricketson (seventh at 130) placed for the first time. Others, including seniors Tom Decker (285), Taylor Lyman (145), Chris Nenninger (160), Guy Powell (189) and Hakeem Smith (152) also developed into state qualifiers.

Nass acknowledges that rarely is a concern at one of the state’s largest high schools. But simple numbers do not equate into Mat Classic placers. He said several factors have resulted in the accomplishments of his program, which placed 11th at state with 53 points.

He cites his coaching staff, which includes Lyle Ballew, Josh Emmons and Josiah Kipperberg, who had a 34-2 record and won a state championship at 112 in 2006, as a significant reason behind South’s success.

“It’s not only teaching the kids how to wrestle, but the mental preparation,” Nass said. “All of those guys have extensive wrestling backgrounds. They do a fantastic job.”

He said that extends to the junior high and youth coaches in the area. Nass also credits the parents of athletes in the program. He said opposing coaches have noted the turnout of maroon-and-yellow-clad fans at road venues.

“You get fired up,” he said. “It’s a really good situation.”

Nass, 36, is a hands-on coach. It is not uncommon for him to run stairs or wrestle with his athletes. A 1992 state champion at 141 pounds for the Wolves, he said he developed that approach after watching his coach at Pacific Lutheran University, Chris Wolfe, do the same.

“I just always thought it was cool if I had a coach jump in and do what I’m doing,” Nass said. “I had a lot of respect for him because he didn’t have us do anything he wasn’t willing to do. As an athlete, I really picked it up because I wasn’t going to have him beat me.”

Hartmann agreed.

“He’s never asked me for anything he wouldn’t do himself,” Hartmann said. “He treats us like us adults ... and we return that respect to him.”

South improved this season despite losing perhaps its top wrestler, 171-pound junior Michael Neiner, before New Year’s Day with a torn left hamstring. The Wolves never were ranked in the top 20 in the Washington Wrestling Report, but almost certainly would have been a top-10 team at state with Neiner, who placed eighth at 171 in 2009.

But Nass said he was impressed with how his wrestlers responded with each competitor winning at least once at state.

“I don’t think that’s happened,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes about the kind of kids we have.”

They also extended the streak, but Nass said he tries not to focus on that.

“I think the streak is something when I’m done coaching, I’ll look back and appreciate it,” he said.

“One of the things I like about it is when you line up against other teams, they’re bringing their best. It’s good for the sport.”

Nass said he has no idea when that time for reflection will come. He credits his wife, Susie, who teaches family and consumer sciences at South, and his daughters – Emily, 9, and Hailey, 6 – for their support. Nass said that, coupled with encouragement from parents and the community, should keep him entrenched in his position for years.

“I feel like I really enjoy what I do,” he said. “As long as you can make that positive impact on kids’ lives, I guess I will try and do it as long as I can.”

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