Retired Coach Still Earning Honors


Even in retirement, the accolades continue to flow for former Payson High School wrestling coach, Dennis Pirch.

Most recently, the Arizona High School All-Star Wrestling Meet held Feb. 22 at Casa Grande High School was dedicated to him.


Former Payson High School wrestling coach Dennis Pirch, shown officiating a middle school match last fall, had the Arizona High School All-Star Wrestling Meet dedicated to him.

In honoring the former Longhorn coach, the Arizona Coaches Association featured Pirch in an all-star ceremony and the official program.

The tribute to him read:

"Dennis has been a public school teacher for 32 years at Payson High School and had the opportunity to begin the wrestling program in 1974. He was in the leadership role for 28 years as the head coach and has many fond memories of watching boys develop into fine young men.

"During this tenure, the Longhorns earned 23 divisional titles, 10 state championships and five state runner-ups. He has received numerous coach of the year awards and was the USA high school coach of the year in 1997."

That award was presented to Pirch at the NCAA wrestling finals by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

The ACA tribute continues:

"Dennis and his wife, Kathy have been married for 30 years and have two grown sons, Clifford, 27 and Christopher, 22. Kathy actively supported the program in various capacities and was an integral part of making wrestling a Payson tradition."

Also in the tribute, Pirch thanked the assistant coaches who helped build the program into one of the most successful in the United States. Former assistants included Bruce Sitko, Teddy Pettet, Don Heizer, Doug Eckhardt and Dave LaMotte.

When Pirch retired two years ago, LaMotte took over as the Horns' head coach.

Pirch also thanked former Payson High School athletic director and principal, Tom Meck for helping found the wrestling program.

In 1974, when Pirch was on the verge of moving from Payson to the Valley to pursue other coaching opportunities, Meck convinced him to stay and start a PHS wrestling program.

In his tribute, Pirch also "gives all the glory for whatever impact he has had to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior."

Also representing the Rim country in the all-star clash were Zach Lee, Matt McCarty, George Coleman and LaMotte.

The PHS coach was a member of the Blue Team all-star staff which also included Jim Weed of Tempe Marcos de Niza and Morenci's Gilbert Padilla.

Lee (152), a member of the Red All-Star team, wrapped up his stellar high school career with a 151-10 record winning a 16-3 major decision over Morenci's Chad Corbell.

For the Blue team, McCarty emerged victorious 12-8 over Sigi Apodaca of Coconino. During his tenure at PHS, McCarty compiled a 129-33 record.

Also on the Blue Team, Coleman finished with a 124-19 career slate by defeating Coconino's Robert Joyce 7-4.

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