By CONOR NICHOLL
Kretzer among legendary coaches announcing retirement
SALINA – McPherson’s Doug Kretzer has served on the wrestling staff at his alma mater for the last 26 seasons. Kretzer and his daughter Mya were among those who significantly helped girls’ wrestling become a KSHSAA sanctioned sport three years ago. Kretzer has won multiple national and state awards for his work with girls’ wrestling. From the beginning, Kretzer preached the long-term growth of the sport.
“Listen, I don’t know how many times in your life, it almost never happens that you have the potential to change the world,” Kretzer said. “And if you want to prove to the state that this can be done, you can go down as one of the girls that changed history. Those 16 girls that first year in McPherson that bought into that.”
On February 23, Kretzer sat in one of the first rows of the second deck at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center for the 4-1A state wrestling tournament in Salina. Kretzer had just coached in his last ever state semifinal girls’ match, a 6-4 overtime loss for his 235-pound freshman Ciara Rawson. As athletes, coaches and fans filed out of the center, Kretzer patiently waited for Rawson after the match.
He looked down at the center floor, now nearly empty after a full day of wrestling with girls from all over Kansas. The sport has continued to significantly grow, including around 1,500 girls this winter. In the first few seasons of girls wrestling, McPherson held the unofficial state tournament.
In 2020, the first sanctioned state tournament featured all classes. Two years ago, Kansas split to 5-6A and 4-1A. Kretzer thought about this year’s state tournament – and last winter’s regional that he attended at Ellis High School.
“I am proud of it, I really am,” Kretzer told SIK. “I look around when I walk in this gym and see all these girls on the mat, they are wrestlers, they are not girls that are out for wrestling. They are wrestlers, and two years ago, when we went to the regional tournament, I pulled up and I saw all these school vans pulling up with gear bags and head gear hanging off of them, and pony tails and just felt great, felt amazing.”
Kretzer, though, had known his coaching time was coming to an end. A Rule 10 coach, he coached all four of his children and enjoyed flexibility with his work. Kretzer called himself “blessed” between work and being a high school coach.
“It was trying at times,” Kretzer said. “I mean, it really did feel like we were moving a mountain. It felt like it was just so much work to convince people – and when I say people, I mean the state – the state, other coaches, people that love wrestling. It’s surprised me how hard it was to convince them that it made sense for girls to have the same opportunities that boys do.”
Kretzer had known since Christmas that 2021-22 would be his last season. He told his team the week before regionals. Kretzer called it the “right time” to retire. McPherson had more than 20 girls this winter, and Kretzer said the “future looks bright” for MHS wrestling. Kretzer is looking forward to being a fan.
“The last few years, you could kind of feel it coming,” he said. “When you have been in it for a long, long time…I will miss it, but I really, really am excited about some other endeavors that we have got going on, too. I am not a sit at home and not do anything type of guy.”
On Tuesday, McPherson announced former Eureka coach Mike Davison as the new Bullpup wrestling coach. Kretzer’s retirement and Davison’s hire represented one of the biggest coaching transactions in a flurry of statewide coaching activity during the past few weeks.
Davison graduated from McPherson from 2003 and had served as Eureka’s head wrestling coach since 2009. A two-time KWCA 3-2-1A Coach of the Year, Davison led Eureka to top-eight state finishes six times. In 2019, Eureka won the state championship, the first eastern Kansas school to win a 3-2-1A wrestling title since 2001. It remains the only athletic team state championship in Eureka school history. Davison started the Eureka girls’ wrestling program in 2017.
“We are excited to bring in someone with his experience and success to lead the Bullpup Wrestling Program for years to come,” McPherson coach Shane Backhus said in a statement.
The changes also included: Clay Center girls’ basketball coach Jeff Edwards and longtime Otis-Bison football/track coach Travis Starr moving into administrative positions, multiple head football coaching positions filled, and Andale’s Clint Robinson taking over the Indian girls’ basketball program after the untimely midseason passing of Ted Anderson.
4 coaches with more than 140 years of experience retire
Plus, two legendary basketball coaches retired: Pittsburg-Colgan’s boys’ basketball coach Wayne Cichon, and Coldwater-South Central girls’ coach Tim Rietzke. Travis Keal, MV’s highly accomplished wrestling coach and the lone head coach in program history, also retired.
Cichon won 655 games and five state titles in 39 years with Colgan. He will remain in his teaching/administrative role. Rietzke was the active all-time wins leader in state history with 828 victories.
As well, Douglass will have a new wrestling coach for the first time in 40 years. Douglass earned state runner-up in 3-2-1A this winter under longtime coach Dusty Rhodes, a Douglass graduate. He started teaching and coaching in Douglass in 1976.
This week, Douglass announced that Jason Frakes, a 1994 state champion for the Bulldogs, will take over as head coach. Harry Lamar, a former Douglass assistant and longtime Silver Lake head coach, is returning as the assistant. Lamar had most recently served as a Washburn Rural assistant coach, including in 2020 when the Junior Blues won crowns with both genders.
Rhodes first coached DHS wrestling in 1977.
This winter, Rhodes coached Joe Martin to a 285-pound state championship, one of four state placers for DHS boys. Wade Morgan took second at 195. Jewella Cokeley finished 33-1 and took third at 155 on the girls’ side.
Since 1990, Douglass has six top-eight team showings at the state wrestling meet. 2022 marked the first top-five showing since 1980. This winter tied 1978 for the best all-time finish for the program in the KSHSAA era; DHS did win a state title in 1960.
Rhodes is a legend at Douglass and around the state. Similar to Rietzke, Cichon, Kretzer and Keal, many students noted in Douglass exit interviews that Rhodes was someone who mentored and helped them.
Historical accomplishments for DHS wrestling can be found here:
Clint Robinson takes over as Andale’s girls’ basketball coach
Similar to McPherson, Andale girls’ basketball has enjoyed plenty of success, especially recently. In late January, Anderson passed away at the age of 53. He spent 13 years in the Renwick school district and 30 overall. Andale has recently qualified for state in ’15-’17, ’18, and the last two winters. That includes one runner-up showing in ’18 and three final fours.
This winter, Andale posted an 18-5 mark and lost, 74-35, to eventual champion Bishop Miege in the 4A state quarterfinals. Clint Robinson, in his third season at Andale and first as a girls’ assistant, took over as head varsity coach after Anderson’s passing.
“The girls, they kept it together all season,” Robinson told SIK after the state loss. “It could have been an easy opportunity just to say, ‘This isn’t our year and give up,’ but they didn’t do that. So they kept working and kept battling through it. It obviously wasn’t the outcome we wanted or expected, but they kept playing. We will have our celebration afterwards, and we will remember all the good things that happened throughout the year. We will just go on from there.”
Robinson learned a lot after he took over, including the amount of media coverage and emails that come with state week. Andale’s athletic director also stepped in and helped serve in an assistant role. Robinson significantly upped his scouting and film work after he took over as head coach.
“We didn’t change a whole lot offensively,” Robinson said. “We just kind of focused on defense a little bit more and tried to get us to play together as a team a little bit more. Some things that I could do, because I am more defensive-minded, so we really tried to work together more as a team … not that we weren’t before. The hardest part was I would coach a varsity game, and then I would go coach a JV game. So I would still coach both. So that was hard on me for awhile, but kind of got used to it.”
After state, Robinson said it was “the plan” for him to take the permanent job. Andale is currently dominating across the board in all sports and is expected to be very good again in girls’ basketball next winter. Andale will return senior McKenzie Fairchild, the reigning 4A volleyball player of the year, second team (top-10) all-state in basketball and currently the nation’s No. 1 high school javelin thrower.
However, Robinson knew the position would get interest.
“Andale is kind of a sought out place in this area, so it’s going to be a whole process,” Robinson said.
Robinson, a SIK 4A coach of the year finalist, recently earned the permanent job after impressive work guiding Andale down the stretch.
Edwards leaving Clay Center
Clay Center’s Jeff Edwards enjoyed great success in the last eight seasons with Tiger girls’ basketball. Edwards led CC to final four showings in ’15, ’16 and ’20 and a state championship in ’16, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson. Last winter, Clay Center went 22-1. This season, Edwards led CC to a 16-win season and a near-upset against Eudora in the 4A state quarterfinals. Eudora hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation and sent the game to overtime.
Edwards, a 4A coach of the year finalist, had a wreck and broke his neck the Friday before the season started. Edwards continued to heal through an overachieving season. He elected to pursue a longtime goal of moving into administration.
“Tremendous season,” Edwards told SIK. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. They’ve poured it out from Day 1 all the way through the season, all the way to the last buzzer, and I told the girls, every day I came to practice, I was looking forward to it, and it was kind of a stress free environment, because I knew they would pour it out for me, and they would do everything they could to win, and that’s all I could ask.”
Edwards has accepted the Linn head principal job. Linn is 23 miles north from Clay Center on K-15. Plus, Edwards’ daughter, Clara, a first team all-state pick in volleyball and basketball and 2021 SIK 4A softball player of the year, is in her freshman season with South Dakota softball.
SD is 20-17, and Edwards has quickly emerged as the team’s ace. She leads in nearly all pitching categories with an 11-9 record and 2.58 earned-run average.
This week, Dalton Haist was board approved to take over as new Clay Center girls’ basketball coach. Haist serves as strength and conditioning coach, assistant football coach and powerlifting coach with CC. The 6-foot-6 Haist is a 2013 CC graduate where he played multiple sports.
Starr, Vincent pace major 8-man coaching changes
Longtime Otis-Bison coach Travis Starr moved into the athletic director role with the Cougars. Starr’s entire professional career has been spent as O-B’s head football coach. He has also served in other roles with Otis-Bison, including head track coach. Starr replaced Stan Ewy, who announced his retirement after a lengthy stint with O-B.
Starr coached O-B for 17 seasons and finished 100-68-1. O-B is routinely an Eight-Man, Division II school as one of the state’s smallest enrollments. Starr is one of seven current eight-man head coaches to win 100 career games at the eight-man level. He is one of five to do it all at one school.
He had a state runner-up showing, two other final fours, and three seasons where the Cougars fell in the quarterfinals.
Starr is one of the few coaches to lead a classification in eight-man scoring offense and defense in different years. In his final 13 seasons, O-B finished 88-44-1 and was consistently in the top-five rankings.
Of the 42 Eight-Man, Division II schools for 2022, the Cougars are tied for No. 13 for fewest enrollment, per KSHSAA. Otis-Bison is currently small enough to play six-man football.
Another team with low enrollment, Wheatland-Grinnell, (40 students in the latest football classification cycle), has its well-publicized coaching change. Jesse Vincent led a major turnaround with the Thunderhawks, including an Eight-Man, Division II state runner-up showing to Axtell last fall. It marked the best season in school history.
Vincent has accepted the Canton-Galva principal position. He is not expected to continue coaching. His son, Jett, is the reigning Eight-Man, Division II Defensive Player of the Year and a first team all-state receiver. He has a strong chance to set the career eight-man mark for interceptions. C-G has four straight double-digit winning seasons, including a state title, with coach Shelby Hoppes.
Additionally, C-G moves down to Division II for next fall. Axtell and C-G are the likely substantial Division II favorites.
Ozores takes over at Russell after RHS best scoring defense since 2010; Wilson announces closure
Among 11-man changes, Christien Ozores moved up as Russell’s head coach after he was the defensive coordinator last fall and had served on staff for two seasons. Russell went 4-5 and allowed 24.9 points per game. That included a victory against 8-3 TMP. Russell had a three-win improvement from 2020. It marked the best scoring defense for Russell since 2010. In mid-September, a coach, unprompted about Ozores, reached out to me and noted that Ozores was “going to be a really good head (football) coach in the future.”
Russell had allowed at least 31.2 points a contest in the last 10 seasons, including 37.3 in 2020, per Prep Power Index archives. Ozores is from Junction City and Fort Hays where he played defensive back. Ozores is an assistant coach for basketball and baseball. Russell had its first playoff appearance since 2006. The Broncos have not had a winning season since a 7-3 record in 2003.
On Wednesday afternoon, Russell radio noted that Wilson High School will close, starting for the 2023-24 school year. Students would move to Claflin-Central Plains. Wilson has enjoyed plenty of success in multiple sports. Rod Seehafer completed his 42nd season with girls’ basketball in 2018 and had just one losing record, a 9-11 mark, in that span. Wilson has dealt with low numbers the last several years and co-oped with Central Plains in volleyball.