Why the transition to a new head coach has been smooth for Kasson-Mantorville wrestling team
Hill was picked by longtime legendary coach Jamie Heidt to take over the perennial powerhouse program this year after spending the past decade as his assistant.
KASSON — The year was 2012.
Ryan Hill had just moved to southeastern Minnesota when out of the blue he received a call from an unknown number.
It was Jamie Heidt.
The then-Kasson-Mantorville co-coach and fellow Iowa native had heard Hill was living close by. Heidt had a proposition for Hill, a former Wartburg College wrestler. It involved coming to the K-M wrestling room once a week to help with the team.
Hill was more than intrigued and it wasn’t long until he was fully invested.
“That lasted for about two weeks, before I was driving over five nights a week,” Hill said with a laugh. “I was just really hooked. The kids were just great. It was really easy to coach wrestling. When you came into the room, the kids had been around excellence all day long. You got to focus on just wrestling.”
Over the next decade, Hill became Heidt’s right-hand man, being there every step of the way as Heidt helped grow Kasson-Mantorville into a powerhouse with four state titles in a six-year span.
Over the past couple of years, it became clearer and clearer to Heidt that it was time for the mentee to take over.
"I've seen Ryan over the years and as a coach, evolve," Heidt said in November. "He's a great organizer. He's a great manager. He’s spent time in the youth program, the middle school programs, the high school programs, he just has a pulse, overall, on the program.
"When you see a guy like that, see that potential, that’s something where I can make those changes and give him that opportunity to take the program to that next step. That was my goal, to put K-M wrestling in a position to be built for the long-term. It’s just a next step forward."
Heidt has remained on the K-M staff this season, as an assistant. It gives him the opportunity to do what he most enjoys: teaching on the mat. To have him in the room, Hill admits, makes his life much easier.
"I was really fortunate to have Jamie as a mentor," Hill said. "Then I was even more fortunate that when I did make the jump to head coach, I had probably one of the best high school wrestling coaches in the country on my staff."
It has made for a relatively easy transition thus far.
The KoMets are ranked No. 4 in Class AA by The Guillotine, which also ranks seven K-M grapplers in the top 10 in their respective weight classes. K-M is fresh off a tournament title in Osage, Iowa, on Jan. 14. It was also very impressive at the prestigious Cheesehead Invitational hosted by Wisconsin power Kaukauna High School on Jan. 6-7. The KoMets placed sixth overall out of more than 30 teams from around the country.
Four of the five teams that finished ahead of them were nationally ranked.
“The transition over to Hill as head coach was not a hard one,” standout senior Cole Glazier said. “We didn’t have some new guy coming in to run our program with no idea how to run things. Coach Hill has been with the program for a while now and knows the recipe for success. I think he’s an awesome coach and I like what brings to the table. This year, he’s done great and I think it’s only up from here.”
An athlete like Glazier, of course, would help any first-year coach.
He’s ranked as the No. 7 170-pounder in the country by FloWrestling after racking up impressive individual titles at the Dan Gable Donnybrook in Coralville, Iowa and the Minnesota Christmas Tournament. The St. Cloud State University commit suffered his first and only loss in Kaukauna to No. 3 nationally-ranked Tyler Eise of Parker, Colo., by a 5-2 decision in the 170-pound final. That came after he put on a clinic against No. 12 nationally ranked and Bucknell University commit Myles Takats in the semis.
It’s been pretty much the exact start Glazier envisioned as he hunts for his first state title.
Yet, with the graduation of five-time state champion Bennett Berge, Hill most loves what Glazier has brought off the mat this year.
“He’s a leader in his actions and makes it real easy to tell kids, this is what the best guys do,” Hill said. “Guys buy in when they see it every day in the room. They have that role model every day. He works his tail off in every aspect. He wrestles hard. When we are upstairs and lifting, he’s lifting hard. When we hit the halls, running sprints, he’s going hard. Just having that example in all aspects is important.”
Having that support from your biggest star is huge, but the support from the communities of Kasson and Mantorville, too, helps Hill sleep easier at night.
“The amount of support I have is just phenomenal,” Hill said. “It doesn't really matter where I go in the community. There's always people checking up on me. Now it's going and it's high expectations. My goal is to get back on top before they run me out of town.”