MSHSAA Elevates Nick Ward with Coach of the Year Honor

KHS Girls Wrestling head coach recognized for building student success on and off the mat

Kearney, Mo., September 22, 2023: After working hard for 17 years to build up young people as an educator and coach, Kearney High School’s Nick Ward is being lifted into a spot at the pinnacle of his profession.

Mr. Ward has been selected to be honored as the 2023 Missouri Girls Wrestling Coach of the Year by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHSA).

Every year, MSHSAA and the NFHSA recognize one coach in each sport in the State of Missouri with its highest honor – The Coach of the Year Award. This award is presented to an individual who has made a life-long commitment to the ideals of coaching interscholastic sports.

“We are pleased to honor Coach Ward as a valued contributor to interscholastic activities in the State of Missouri through the Coach of the Year recognition program,” MSHSAA Executive Director of Girls Wrestling Daryl Bradley said.

Ward was surprised and humbled to learn that he would be receiving the award from Mr. Bradley during tonight’s KHS home football game against Winnetonka High School.

“None of this would have happened without the tremendous support from the people who have mentored and guided me throughout my youth as a wrestler and as a young coach and teacher,” Ward said. “I owe a lot of my life to the sport of wrestling. Wrestling has brought me a career, family, countless friends, and influential mentors.”

Ward has taught social studies, U.S. history and related subjects since he joined the KHS faculty in 2013. He was an assistant Boys Wrestling coach from 2013 to 2020; that’s when he started the school’s wrestling program for girls.

He gave credit for the recognition to those who taught him and to the network of support he found in the Bulldog community.

“Countless others have a hand in the program’s success, from past and present wrestlers, coaches, parents, volunteers, and supporters. We have a great staff, administration, and winning culture at KSD,” Ward said. “The wrestling tradition is strong, and all the past and present coaches and assistants also deserve a tip of the cap. I also want to thank my family: Cami, Collin, Coby and Alex.”

Kearney School District Activities Director Dave Schwarzenbach was happy but not particularly surprised that Ward was named as the state’s Girls Wrestling Coach of the Year. Ward has done an outstanding job of recruiting students to compete in the relatively new sport. He’s also developed a reputation as one of the most technical coaches who knows how to train his athletes to their peak performance.

“Coach Ward understands at a very deep level how to train and teach excellent wrestling techniques,” Mr. Schwarzenbach said. “He gets it. He has a lot of tools in the toolbox.”

Ward’s coaching of the Girls Wrestling program at KHS led to a state championship in 2023. Winning is good, but it’s not the main reason why he’s a coach. Wrestling is an opportunity to teach students how to dictate the action when life tries to throw them to the mat.

“Our motto in the program is ‘BUILD.’ As in, you are always building or preparing for the flood,” Ward said. “The flood can come in many ways. It can be a tough loss, a bad test, a family tragedy, etc. The work is never done. Hopefully, the kids in our program take that growth mindset out into the world when they are finished competing for KHS.”