photo of Coach Klel Carson holding state Champion wrestling trophy

LHS Wrestling Coach Klel Carson Named National Coach of the Year


(La Grande) – Klel Carson, longtime Wrestling Coach for La Grande High School, has been named an NFHS National Coach of the Year for the 2022-23 school year. NFHS is the National Federation of State High School Associations. According to NFHS, honorees were selected based upon their coaching performance in the 2022-23 school year, coaching history, community involvement, school involvement and philosophy of coaching. Winning coaches were specifically nominated by their state athletic/activities association to receive this award.


According to Carson, “I would say the best part of this award is reconnecting with former students, athletes, teachers and coaches. Over the past couple of days, I've had conversations with students I taught in third grade, 28 years ago. I feel blessed to have these relationships!”


For 31 years, Carson has led the La Grande 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 (one when he was an assistant coach), 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.


LHS Athletic Director Darren Goodman said Carson is much more than a first-class wrestling coach. “He takes pride in being the best husband, father, friend, mentor and coach that he can be. He cares deeply about the people in his life, his community and the athletes that he coaches. Simply put, Klel Carson is a champion on and off the mat!” said Goodman.

George Mendoza, Superintendent of La Grande School District, enthusiastically congratulated Coach Carson in a recent message to all district staff, saying the district is very thankful and proud to have such an exceptional coach guiding student athletes to success.

“What an amazing accomplishment and very well deserved! This wonderful recognition is a testament to Klel’s dedication, leadership and the outstanding achievements of our wrestling program. LGSD thanks Coach Carson for the amazing impact you make for many in our school district and community,” Mendoza said.

Superintendent Mendoza reiterated that LHS wrestlers have won three of the last four state titles in arguably one of the most demanding sports in high school athletics and that it takes a team of many outstanding staff members, coaches, athletes and families to create and sustain this level of success. “It all starts with Klel’s dedication and commitment to our students!”

Carson will receive a plaque and ring from NFHS later this year.