With two rookie head coaches at the helm of the Longhorn basketball programs and a second-year coach guiding the wrestling team, it’s obvious a youth movement is under way on the Payson High School campus.
Kelly Krieg has taken over the coaching reins of the Lady Longhorns from Stacy Anderson who resigned last spring to accompany her husband, Josh, to Dakota State University where he’s the Trojans’ new football coach.
Jared Swanson is the new boys basketball coach, replacing Kenny Hayes, who also resigned last spring.
Hayes has moved to Dakota State where he is Josh Anderson’s defensive coordinator.
In wrestling, Travis Koppenhafer begins his second year as head coach after last year guiding the PHS grapplers to an East Region fifth-place finish and into the inaugural state team tournament where the Horns lost a head-to-head dual against Holbrook.
In taking over for Hayes, Swanson has some big shoes to fill in that the previous coach was the East Region Coach of the Year the past two season and two years ago led the Longhorns to the state championship game where they lost to Estrella Foothills.
Like Swanson, Krieg is following in the footsteps of an accomplished coach. Last season, Stacy Anderson coached the Lady Horns to a 24-7 record, the East Region championship and into the state tournament where PHS was eventually eliminated 47-46 by Monument Valley.
Krieg is facing an uphill battle in that all the starters off last year’s star-studded team graduated with the class of 2009.
Krieg taught and coached at Yuma Kofa High School before taking over at PHS.
She graduated in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin Superior where she was a member of the Dean’s List, a varsity basketball player for four years and the team captain her senior season.
Krieg, the daughter of a high school coach, played mostly point guard during her tenure at Wisconsin Superior.
Krieg says she will stress good fundamentals including rebounding and defense.
She also indicates she favors a set offense over a run-and-gun style of play, but will fashion the team’s new offense and defense on the skills and talents of her players.
Swanson was named the new PHS coach in early July and immediately began an off-season program that included conditioning and strength training.
He arrives in Payson with a rich basketball background having played four years in Australia, as well as on the NCAA D-III level, in junior college and high school.
In 2008, he played in the Australian Southern Peninsula Basketball Association where he was named the league MVP and an all-star.
He was also an all-star in both the Shepparton and Warmambool Basketball Associations and served a stint as a head coach in the Country Basketball League in Shepparton, Victoria, Australia.
He calls the level of competition the league comparable to junior colleges in the United States.
Swanson, who was living in Vancouver at the time he was hired in Payson, says he took the head coach because “I wanted to be a head coach and I like the warm weather.”
Although Koppenhafer did not have previous head coaching experience when principal Roy Sandoval hired him in the fall of 2008, he was versed in the sport, having been an assistant for two years at Arizona State University.
He also helped coach in the famous Sunkist Kids wrestling program in Tempe and competed for the team in the 157-pound class.
At Adams State College in Colorado he was a three-time All-American and a national champion.
In 2007, he qualified for the Olympic Trials, but came up just short of making the team.
“It was an awesome experience, I only wish it would have turned out a little bit differently,” he said.
Koppenhafer says he gave up the collegiate scene in favor of prep wrestling because, “coaches are more instrumental in who wrestlers are and who they become.
“It’s not that way in college.”
The Longhorns debut Nov. 28 in a junior varsity tournament in Wilson Dome. On Dec. 4 and 5, the varsity competes in the Rio Rancho Duals. The boys and girls basketball team will be in scrimmage action Nov. 20 at Desert Edge High School. The season tips off in earnest Nov. 24 at Winslow.