Klel Carson (OR) and Gerald Harris (OK) named NFHS National Coaches of the Year

by Bruce Howard, NFHS

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) logo

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 16, 2024) — Twenty-three high school coaches from across the country have been selected as 2022-23 National Coaches of the Year by the NFHS Coaches Association.

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. This year’s awards recognize coaches for the 2022-23 school year.

Editor’s Note: USA Wrestling members Klel Carson of La Grande (Oregon) High School was named NFHS Boys Wrestling Coach of the Year, as well as Gerald Harris II, girls wrestling coach at Tulsa (Oklahoma) Union High School, was selected as NFHS Coach of the Year in the “Others” category for girls sports.

Boys Wrestling Coach of the Year

Klel Carson

La Grande, Oregon

For 31 years, Klel Carson has led the La Grande (Oregon) High School boys wrestling program with the philosophy to “strive to teach and model for young athletes how to become champions in life, great parents and great people.” On the mat, Carson has coached 28 individual state champions and 328 state qualifiers. La Grande has won the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) team wrestling championship four times under Carson, including back-to-back titles in 2022 and 2023. His teams also have won the OSAA state dual-team championship three times. Carson has twice been named Oregon’s Class 4A Coach of the Year and was the state’s wrestling Coach of the Year in 2023. In 1996, Carson was inducted into the La Grande High School Hall of Fame. He also has 28 years’ experience coaching middle school football and another 15 years coaching youth baseball and softball.

Girls “Other” Coach of the Year (Wrestling)

Gerald Harris II

Tulsa, Oklahoma

           Gerald Harris is off to an amazing start as a girls wrestling coach in Oklahoma. He has coached the winning team in the first three sanctioned Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) Girls Wrestling State Championships – the first one at Broken Arrow High School and the last two years at Union High School in Tulsa. Including his boys state titles at Collinsville High School in 2019 and 2020, Harris has won state wrestling titles in five consecutive years. He has won numerous coaching awards, including Oklahoma Coaches Association, Oklahoma Women’s Coaches Association and OSSAA Coach of the Year in 2023. Harris is executive director of “Wrestle for Equality,” a non-for-profit for girls wrestling and financial assistance, and the Oklahoma representative for “Wrestle Like a Girl,” which seeks to empower girls and women through opportunities in female wrestling. Harris said he stresses the “importance of the classroom first, because without academics you have nothing regardless of how talented you are. I want that same mentality to carry them through life, keeping their priorities in order and making the world a better place with their presence.” 

Other recipients of the 2022-23 national awards for boys sports are: Kim Nelson, baseball, Orem (Utah) Timpanogos High School; Steve Hall, basketball, Detroit (Michigan) Cass Technical High School; Joe Tribble, cross country, Atlanta (Georgia) Westminster Schools; Mike Goebel, 11-player football, Evansville (Indiana) Mater Dei High School; Tim Cram, golf, Benton (Louisiana) High School; Rey Ramirez-Alvarez, soccer, Wichita (Kansas) Maize South High School; Paul Winkeler, swimming and diving, Kansas City (Missouri) Rockhurst High School; Darby Norman, tennis, Amarillo (Texas) Randall High School; Spencer Huls, track and field, Corvallis (Montana) High School


The recipients of the 2022-23 national awards for girls sports are: Jan Azar, basketball, Dacula (Georgia) Hebron Christian Academy; Charles Covington, cross country, Saltillo (Mississippi) High School; Vicky Kowalski, golf, Farmington Hills (Michigan) Mercy High School; Patricia Alexander, lacrosse, Raleigh (North Carolina) Cardinal Gibbons High School; Angie Lensing, soccer, Evansville (Indiana) Reitz Memorial High School; Kelli Smith, softball, Chattanooga (Tennessee) The Baylor School; Milton “Butch” Briggs, swimming and diving, East Grand Rapids (Michigan) High School; Donna Roisom, tennis, Portland (Oregon) Grant High School; Shaun Hardt, track and field, Queen Creek (Arizona) High School; and Jessica Burke, volleyball, Lafayette (Louisiana) St. Thomas More Catholic High School.  

The recipient of the National Coach of the Year for spirit is Jennifer Marks of Raleigh (North Carolina) Cardinal Gibbons High School. Travis White, an 8-player football coach from Tipton (Oklahoma) High School, was chosen in the “Others” category for boys sports.

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.

The next award level after state coach of the year is sectional coach of the year. The NFHS is divided into eight geographical sections. They are as follows: Section 1 – Northeast (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT); Section 2 – Mideast (DE, DC, KY, MD, OH, PA, VA, WV); Section 3 – South (AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN); Section 4 – Central (IL, IN, IA, MI, WI); Section 5 – Midwest (KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD); Section 6 – Southwest (AR, CO, NM, OK, TX); Section 7 – West (AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT); and Section 8 – Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY).

The NFHS Coaches Association has an advisory committee composed of a chair and eight sectional representatives. The sectional committee representatives evaluate the state award recipients from the states in their respective sections and select the best candidates for the sectional award in each sport category. The NFHS Coaches Association Advisory Committee then considers the sectional candidates in each sport, ranks them according to a point system, and determines a national winner for each of the 20 sport categories, the spirit category and two “other” categories.

A total of 874 coaches are being recognized this year with state, sectional and national awards.

Link to official NFHS press release, with bios of other award winners.