Sterling High School did not have to look far and wide for its next varsity head wrestling coach.
Kevin Heller, who has been an assistant coach with the program for 19 seasons, will take over for the 2019-20 season. He replaces Jeff Gale, who resigned this past winter.
Heller, a 1980 Erie grad and a state qualifier as a senior at 155 pounds, was a volunteer assistant at Sterling for three seasons, then a paid assistant for the past 16.
“I’m really excited,” said Heller, the owner of RRCA Accounts Management since 1987. “I’ve given a lot of years to the program, and of course to the sport over my lifetime. It’s going to be an interesting challenge. I’ve never been on the administrative side of being a coach.”
It should be a smooth transition, as Heller has already confirmed last year’s coaching staff, except Gale, will be back. They include Larry Balsley, Dion Garcia, Jordan Cater, Leroy Harts and Turner Garcia.
“The program will be the same,” Heller said. “Our philosophies will not change. The coaching staff, minus Gale, is the same. Our approach to the sport will be exactly the same. It’s kind of like the Who song [Won’t Get Fooled Again], ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’ That’s pretty much what it’s going to be.”
When asked what might be different with the program, Heller noted he wants his wrestlers to be a bit more versatile and open to different ways to getting the job done.
“I believe little guys need to wrestle big-guy styles, and big guys need to wrestle little-guy styles,” Heller said. “There will be a period of introduction of those styles, but then we will make a shift where we will focus predominantly on what each guy does, and we’ll do that better.
“A wrestler has his favorite moves, so you need to perfect them. We’re going to introduce, but we’re not going to force them to wrestle a particular style that maybe I would like.”
Gale is confident his former assistant will do a good job with the Sterling varsity.
“Kevin has been a huge part of the Golden Warriors’ success, and has coached in the program over two decades,” Gale said. “Kevin loves wrestling and puts everything he has into making it fun. He will do a fantastic job with an elite roster of student athletes.”