McKean returns to Mingus Union head wrestling coach post

Klint McKean stands up and yells during the 2017 state tournament in February. McKean, an assistant coach in 2016-17, switched roles with last year’s head coach Kirk Waddle (right). (VVN/James Kelley)

Klint McKean stands up and yells during the 2017 state tournament in February. McKean, an assistant coach in 2016-17, switched roles with last year’s head coach Kirk Waddle (right). (VVN/James Kelley)

Mingus Union’s “new” head wrestling coach is a familiar one.

This summer Klint McKean took over as the Marauders’ leader, switching roles with 2016-17 head coach Kirk Waddle. McKean had been the Mingus Union head coach for two years and last year lead the elementary and middle school wrestling program and was a high school varsity assistant.

McKean said he’s feeling a lot of excitement.

“I feel like I’m getting back into it but I never really got out of it because I’ve been coaching since I stepped down as the head coach in 2012 but I feel like it’s an opportunity to grow as a coach and do new things,” McKean said. “I know all of the wrestlers, I’ve been around but for me it’s a kinda old and new at the same time.”

McKean originally planned to return to the head coaching job in 2018 when his son Isaac started high school but decided to become head coach a year early. He met with Waddle during the last week of school to ask him.

“I thought about it for a second and said ‘sure, let’s just flip flop,’” Waddle said.

McKean came to help coach high school on Mondays and on holidays last year and set a practice curriculum for the high schoolers. Then he came in full time the last three weeks of the season and traveled with the team to sectionals and state.

“After sectionals I knew he was hooked again because sitting on the edge of the mat gets you going and it was fun watching him,” Waddle said. “Then at state I could tell he’s hooked and so it didn’t surprise me, it was actually a little bit of a relief for me, I was worried about keeping up with it.”

Waddle’s day job is Business Manager for the Mingus Union High School District. McKean teaches English at Mingus Union.

Both of the coaches wrestled at Mingus Union, Waddle earned a full ride to wrestle at NAU and McKean won the state championship in 2001.

McKean owned the all-time Marauders career wins record when he graduated (179). He was the top ranked 112-pound wrestler in all classifications (1A-5A) when he graduated.

“He’d get in and I’d just turn him loose on the team,” Waddle said. “He ran a much better practice, he’s got more experience at it and it was fun having him in there. It was really nice having Klint come to the sectionals and state tournament.”

Waddle replaced Tim McKeever Jr. who stepped down because he was so busy, he coaches football and baseball too. Before McKeever and McKean, Tom Wokasch led the program for 20 years.

McKean said he got into coaching because he benefitted so much from wrestling and wanted other to benefit from it too.

“Wrestling created a foundation for living life and approaching life with a philosophy that effort beats talent and it kinda created that philosophy for me through coach Wokasch, Tom Wokasch and just the experience of learning first hand what it means to put work in to and dedicate yourself,” McKean said. “That is what I what I want to give the wrestlers that I coach.”

Waddle said he had a lot of fun, more than he expected to have, leading the program but he doesn’t mind switching roles.

“Once I got out of it I had to play a lot of catch up, I’m still playing catch up right now,” Waddle said. “But it was fun, the old feeling of getting on the side of the mat when you’ve got a kid going for a championship or third place in a tournament, my palms start sweating and I’d start breathing and I remembered that feeling.”

Both Waddle and McKean think the future is bright for Mingus Union wrestling.

McKean said his top goal is fill every weight class this year and in addition to the two returning state placers, they have a number of other potential state placers.

“So we have a good group of core skilled wrestlers that we expect a lot out of and then we have spots where we don’t know if we’re going to fill the weight class or not and that’s going to be a challenge from a coaching stand point,” McKean said.

Wrestling room nears completion

Along with a new coach, Mingus Union wrestling is getting a new wrestling room.

The finishing touches are being put on the new wrestling room which is expected to be ready for an early September opening.

“It’s going to really be night and day from the last one,” McKean said. “The last room was built in the late 70s by coach Anthony Lozano and some community volunteers in like a building trades class and it served its purpose for a long time but it was a health hazard to say the least. This new room is going to be bigger, it’s going to be cleaner, it’s gonna be safe for the athletes and there’s going to be room for more equipment for strength and conditioning training, we can’t wait. It’s gonna be one of the best rooms in the state.”

Waddle said the new wrestling room is healthier because the last one didn’t ventilate well, it was humid and it would get too hot or too cold.

The old one had benches, making it smaller, this one will have two full regulation mats and room to get full laps in. The old was the last building on campus that still ran on a swamp cooler.

“It will ventilate, it will be much healthier for the wrestlers, much more room,” Waddle said. “We’ll be able to have harder practices if you can believe that (laughs).”

The new one will have peg boards and rope to work out.

“The old was really good for what it was, it was built internally by a coach and it lasted 30 some years and this one will last forever,” Waddle said.

The wrestling club will also use the room, along with MUHS PE and the new building will include three modern classrooms for Spanish.

“They’re going to be very modern, each one is going to have a full set of Chromebooks and very good curriculum,” Waddle said.

Mingus Union will christen the new room with a grand opening on Saturday Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. Wokasch, who was recently inducted into the Arizona coaches Hall of Fame, will the guest of honor.

Afterwards there will be a fundraiser, $30 for steak or chicken. To order tickets, call McKean at (928) 225-1340.

“We’re going to have many wrestlers and community members and alumni come, see the new wrestling room, show not only what the school has provided for us but all the tax payers that approved the bond, which is where we got the money in the first place and they’re we’re going to have a fundraisers dinner after,” McKean said.

Under Wokasch, the Marauders won five state titles in a row before he stepped down and they owned a 417-70-1 dual record.

“For a decade they were just dominant in the division,” Waddle said.

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