Cornelsen to take job at Hutch
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Ryan Cornelsen called it the “hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Cornelsen, the head football coach at Hays High School the past five seasons, accepted the same position at Hutchinson High School. He will replace Randy Dreiling, who went 160-38 and won seven state championships in 17 years at Hutchinson.
Dreiling resigned in December to become the head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.
“It was not easy. Obviously, we’ve really done things to improve here at Hays. I’m proud of what we accomplished,” Cornelsen said. “I wasn’t really looking. I was excited about next year and then Hutch called and offered me a good job.
“I thought it was the right move for me and my career and my family. It is one of those things where you tell your kids to reach for your goals and my goal has always been to coach at the largest level I could.”
Cornelsen made his decision Sunday night and made the announcement to his team at Hays High this morning.
In five seasons leading the Indians, Cornelsen was 35-12, including back-to-back appearances in the Class 5A state playoffs in 2011 and 2012, a first for the school. Prior to that, Hays High had not made a postseason appearance since 1995. Combined with the six years he spent as the head coach at La Crosse, the 35-year-old Cornelsen is 88-25 in 11 seasons as a coach.
He also was the head coach of the West squad in the 2013 Kansas Shrine Bowl in Topeka.
Now he will step into the biggest coaching position of his career.
Dreiling inherited a Hutch team on a 26-game losing streak and turned it into a state power, winning six straight state titles from 2004-09 (four came in Class 6A, two in Class 5A).
Hutch, once again in Class 6A, is coming off a 5-4 season in which it failed to make the state playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. Hutch last won the state title in 2011 in Class 5A.
“Obviously they’ve been successful, so that adds to the pressure,” Cornelsen said. “I’ve never really worried about what the job was before I got there, whether it was good or bad. I’ve just gone in there and done the best job I can, and it’s no different at Hays. I’ve done the best job I could to be successful and I’ll do the same there.”
Cornelsen admitted Hutchinson being in Class 6A had a lot to do with his decision. Hays High is moving from Class 5A to the newly created Class 4A Division I next season.
“It’s my hope for them they go on to win the state title next year,” Cornelsen said. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Cornelsen will finish out the spring at Hays High, where he is also the head coach of the boys’ and girls’ track and field teams. The Hays High boys have won the previous four state championships in Class 5A and have won every meet in his tenure. Cornelsen plans to be an assistant track and field coach at Hutchinson.
Cornelsen, a Fort Hays State University graduate and Liberal native, is the son of legendary Liberal High School football coach Gary Cornelsen. Gary Cornelsen won 28 state titles in football and track and field, including 14 straight track titles from 1991-2004. Liberal football won state titles in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1997 under Gary Cornelsen. Ryan Cornelsen was the starting safety under his father on the 1995 state title team.
The Liberal sports complex is named after Gary Cornelsen.
“There will be. At this point it’s trying to get through leaving here and telling the people that are important to you,” Cornelsen said when asked if there was excitement about his new position at Hutchinson. “I’m as close to my coaches as anybody. There will come a time where I flip a switch and become excited about where we are going, but right now it’s more difficult leaving where I’m at.”