Coaches Team Up For High Intensity Wrestling Camp

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At last year’s High Altitude Intensive Wrestling Camp, participants Vince Verela and Louis Trujillo took a lunch break while relaxing with Verela’s pit bull puppy, Diesel.

Travis Koppenhafer is stepping down as Payson High School wrestling coach, but he is staying around long enough to help his replacement host the Second Annual High Altitude Intensive Wrestling Camp.

The camp will be held June 4 to June 10 on the campus of Payson High School.

Casey Woodall, the man the Payson School Board appointed last week to replace Koppenhafer, will be on the camp staff.

He and Koppenhafer are no strangers to one another.

“I had the pleasure of wrestling with and then coaching Casey in college,” Koppenhafer said. “PHS couldn’t have hired a better person.

“His integrity and work and work ethic are staggering.”

Koppenhafer calls Woodall, “One of the best men I know.”

The new coach is a native of Morenci and a two-time state wrestling champion at the town’s high school.

After graduating from Morenci he went to Adams State College where he was a two-time 197-pound All-American.

For the past four years, he has been the head wrestling coach at Benson High School guiding the team to several top-five state finishes.

Woodall also served as the defensive coordinator for the Benson football team.

Koppenhafer said he is elated PHS hired such a competent coach because, “we have a very tough squad coming back this year and some great freshman kids that are going to give (defending state champion) Safford a run for their money for the state title.”

The outgoing coach also predicts, “Casey is going to take this program to a new level and I want to make the transition transition as smooth and quick as possible.”

Koppenhafer resigned months ago after two years at the helm of the program to return to his alma mater, Adams State, as an assistant coach.

He says he will continue his prep career by “lending a hand at Alamosa High School.”

The move from Payson was also made possible when his wife, a physical therapist, took a job as rehabilitation director for Valley Wide Health Services in Colorado.

“I am sad to leave this program and the great people I have become involved with, but it is what is best for my family, and our student loans,” Koppenhafer said.

About his wrestlers, he praised them saying, “It has been my privilege to be associated with these exceptional young men.”

Last season, East coaches selected Koppenhafer the Region Coach of the Year, partly for building a highly competitive team with less than a full squad of athletes.

He, however, deflected any praise saying, “The young men and their incredible work ethic are what won the award.

“A coach can only show them the path they need to walk to be champions — they are the ones who have to actually walk it.”

Koppenhafer also lauded his assistant coaches Joe Harris and Zach Lee for “shouldering a ton for the team this season.”

Among the highlights of Koppenhafer’s career at PHS was leading the 2009-2010 team to a state second-place finish with only eight state qualifiers in 14 weight classes.

Among those wrestlers Koppenhafer lauded for overcoming obstacles to become huge contributors to the Herculean state effort were Keith Williams, Matt Schruer, Ben Sandoval, Jacob Spear, Joey Spear and Derek Williams.

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