High School Sports

Spiller steps back as Atascadero head wrestling coach

One of the most successful high school sports programs on the Central Coast is looking for a new head coach.

Jeff Spiller has stepped back as Atascadero High’s head wrestling coach to become an assistant coach. He cited the time-consuming nature of being a head coach in terms of managerial tasks but said he still plans to be around to help out.

“To be a head coach in any sport is time-consuming and carries headaches with it,” he said.

Under Spiller, the Greyhounds have won six straight league dual championships in undefeated fashion, and won CIF-Southern Section Northern Division individual-meet team titles in 2009 and 2010 before taking home the runner-up plaque this past spring.

In TheCaliforniaWrestler.com’s final statewide team rankings for this past season, Atascadero finished No. 24 (sixth in the Southern Section).

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Spiller said of the coaching change. “The bigger story is the kids doing all the work.”

Also this past season, the Greyhounds had two individuals place in the top six at the CIF State Championships, with Eli Jackson taking fifth place at 160 pounds and Michael Clemmensen finishing sixth at 103.

Both went on to compete at the Senior National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va., with Clemmensen earning second place at the event and All-American honors.

“We’ve done some amazing things wrestling-wise and have been really successful, but the biggest thing we’ve done is off the mat, outside of wrestling,” Spiller said. “It’s just our tool to teach these kids lessons, to be a better man, to get into college or to find a way to be something.”

In recent years, between 75 to 90 wrestlers have been at practice for Atascadero, with the varsity representatives at the 14 weight classes mixing in with lower-level competitors.

Spiller, who was hired as a teacher at Atascadero in 2001-02, was previously an assistant coach for the Greyhounds in the early 2000s under then-head coach Chris Ferree before taking over as head coach in 2005-06.

“To watch a kid become a champ is really cool,” Spiller said, “but to go into the military or go on to college or go into the community and be solid people, they make us proud like that.”

Those interested in applying to be the new head coach should contact Atascadero athletic director Sam DeRose at 462-4311.

“What he was able to do with the relationships he built with the kids turned into something that was really special,” DeRose said. “He put his heart and soul into it.”

“They have been phenomenal,” DeRose said of Spiller and Ferree. “It’s a first-class program in every sense of the word.”