Aztec coach adds new award to long list of honors

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FARMINGTON — The list of accomplishments and awards for Herb Stinson continues to grow after the longtime Aztec wrestling coach was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year for the NWCA's Section 6 and the state of New Mexico last week.

The NWCA breaks the country down into eight sections based on geography. New Mexico is part of Section 6, which also includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

Stinson was nominated for the award by Aztec head coach Monte Maxwell.

"I feel very blessed. After being the National Coach of the Year three times, now I get to be the Assistant Coach of the Year," Stinson said. "It's kind of an easy step (as an assistant) because when you're used to being the head coach, you know certain things have to be done, and you don't have to be told. We have a very good working relationship between Monte and myself."

Cleveland's Evan Copeland was named the NWCA Coach of the Year for New Mexico. Sam Federico, the head coach at Pomona High in Arvada, Colo., was named the Section 6 Coach of the Year.

Stinson, a 1970 graduate of Aztec High, began his coaching career in the early 1970s, serving as an assistant at Dixie High School in Saint George, Utah, while wrestling at Dixie Junior College before transferring to wrestle at Southern Utah University. After graduating from SUU, Stinson coached at Bloomfield High for a year before taking over the program at Aztec from 1976-2000.

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At Aztec, he coached the Tigers to 12 state championships, and after winning the state title in 2000, Stinson went to Bayfield, Colo., to coach the Wolverines. He rejoined the Tigers as an assistant for the start of the 2012-13 season.

Maxwell said he wanted to nominate his assistant for the award for all the work Stinson has done to better the Aztec wrestling program and hopefully give him one of the few coaching awards he hadn't yet received.

"With the situation him and I are in with our coaching positions, he is by far the best assistant I have ever seen," said Maxwell, who has been the head coach at Aztec since the 2006-07 season. "He has really helped us with practice design and the way things flow in practice, our offseason stuff and traveling during the summer. And just his knowledge. He's been able to guide me as a coach along with the kids."

This past season the Tigers placed third at the 5A state tournament with 148.5 points. It was Aztec's first top-three finish since placing second in 2011.

Stinson was inducted to the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 1998, and last summer he was inducted to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

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Stinson was named the A/3A Coach of the Year six times and the New Mexico Coach of the Year three times. And he also earned three separate national Coach of the Year awards in 1991, 1995 and 2000.

Aside from helping coach the Tigers, Stinson has poured his energy into a new wrestling facility at Aztec High School. 

"My big, big, big push right now obviously is to get Aztec back into a position of prominence, which I feel like we're heading that way as a wrestling program, but also the building fund. That's my huge push right now," Stinson said.

While the facility will be on the AHS campus, it will be open to wrestlers from around the Four Corners, a region filled with wrestlers, coaches and officials who nearly all were impacted by Stinson's work.

"I'd say he embodies (wrestling in the Four Corners). If you look around, the refs, the coaches, the people he's worked with and helped out, most of them have come through Aztec or been involved with him in one way or another — him and Roy Johnson," said Maxwell, who got his start in coaching under Stinson at Aztec in 1995. "Herb has had a huge impact on the wrestling community."

The project has been in the making for a few years, and Stinson said he hopes the project will break ground this summer.

"It may be happening in two phases. The first phase is a usable building by November, which means we want to be using the building when the season starts. The second phase will be the lobby portion, which will have the coaches' office, a study hall and the history of Aztec and New Mexico wrestling," Stinson said. "The building itself will be open to everyone in the Four Corners area."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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