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Longtime USA Wrestling members Simons, Harris named NFHS Wrestling Coaches of the Year

By NFHS | Jan. 20, 2022, 10:21 a.m. (ET)

Photo from Facebook pages of Mike Simons and Kit Harris.

A pair of longtime USA Wrestling member coaches were honored as 2020-21 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.

Mike Simons of Springfield (Oregon) Thurston High School was named Boys Wrestling Coach of the Year.

Kit Harris, a girls wrestling coach at Baldwin High School in Baldwin City, Kansas, was chosen in the “other” category for girls sports.

The NFHS, which has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982, honors coaches in the top 10 girls sports and top 10 boys sports (by participation numbers), and in two “other” sports – one for boys and one for girls – that are not included in the top 10 listings. The NFHS also recognizes a spirit coach as a separate award category. Winners of NFHS awards must be active coaches during the year for which they receive their award.

Boys Wrestling Coach of the Year
Mike Simons, Springfield, Oregon


Mike Simons, of Springfield (Oregon) Thurston High School, has been a high school wrestling coach for 25 years, including the last 18 at Thurston. Simons has made a push to increase participation numbers, and he now has about 80 wrestlers – 45 boys and 35 girls – attending practice each day. Since 2018, the Thurston boys team has finished among the top four teams at the state championships, and the Thurston girls program has an active streak of four consecutive state championships. Simons has collected a record of 312 wins with just 76 losses. He was named the 2019 NFHS Coach of the Year for girls wrestling in Oregon, as well as the sectional honor. In 2013, Simons – through fundraising and community involvement – established the Thurston Middle School boys and girls wrestling program.

Editor’s Note: Simons serves as the Cultural Exchange Director for the Oregon Wrestling Association, the USA Wrestling state association in Oregon.

Other Sports – Girls Wrestling
Kit Harris, Baldwin City, Kansas


The illustrious 28-year coaching tenure of Kit Harris ramped up in 1999 when he assumed head wrestling coach duties at his alma mater, Baldwin High School, in Baldwin City, Kansas. Upon departing Class 6A Washburn Rural High School, Harris grew Baldwin into a perennial power in both boys and girls wrestling. In only the second year it was offered, Baldwin won the 2021 Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Girls Wrestling State Championship. In 2015, Harris was at the helm of a squad that captured the KSHSAA Boys Wrestling State Championship. The two team titles are accompanied by the eight individual state champions, 17 state finalists and 56 state placers coached by Harris. His career includes 271 all-time victories, in addition to recognition as a five-time Lawrence Journal-World Coach of the Year (2002, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2021) and three-time KSHSAA Class 4A Coach of the Year (2002, 2015, 2021). On three occasions (2007, 2015, 2021), Harris was also honored as the Kansas Coaches Association Coach of the Year and NFHS Midwest Section Coach of the Year. Harris has served as the Team Kansas Cadet Freestyle/Greco Coach for seven years, in addition to three terms as Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association (KWCA) president. USA Today named him a finalist for its “Most Caring Coach in America” award in 2015.

The NFHS receives nominations from its member state associations, which often works with the state coaches’ association in its respective state. The state association then contacts the potential state award recipients to complete a coach profile form that requests information regarding the coach’s record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy. To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.

Other winners for 2020-21 are:

Boys sports: John Adair, baseball, Malakoff (Texas) High School; Ron Insinger, basketball, Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Loyalsock Township Senior High School; Jeffrey Howard, cross country, Peninsula (Ohio) Woodridge High School; Rob Zimmerman, 11-player football, DeWitt (Michigan) High School; Holly Lester, golf, Gilbert (Iowa) High School; Samuel “Bunky” Colvin, soccer, Peachtree City (Georgia) McIntosh High School; Christopher Verity, swimming and diving, Endwell (New York) Maine-Endwell High School; Tom O’Brien, tennis, Kansas City (Missouri) Barstow School; Larry Topp, track and field, Minster (Ohio) Local Schools

Girls sports
: Jesse Nelson, basketball, Olpe (Kansas) High School; Stanley Johnson, cross country, Moulton (Alabama) Lawrence County High School; Leonard Kull, golf, Washington (Iowa) High School; John Dwyer, lacrosse, Wilmette (Illinois) Loyola Academy; John Hanley, soccer, San Jose (California) Archbishop Mitty High School; Ed McQuade, softball, Phoenix (Arizona) Greenway High School; Stefanie Kerska, swimming and diving, Ann Arbor (Michigan) Pioneer High School; Kristin Liles, tennis, Tulsa (Oklahoma) Cascia Hall Prep School; Dori Whitford, track and field, Spokane (Washington) Mead High School; and Jean LaClair, volleyball, Bronson (Michigan) High School.

The recipient of the National Coach of the Year Award for spirit is Linda Drust of Cartersville (Illinois) High School. Robert Vance Jones, a 6-player football coach at Balmorhea (Texas) High School, was chosen in the “other” category for boys sports.