STERLING – It’s not often you get stability in athletics the way Sterling High School has had.
For the past 22 years, the school hasn’t had to worry about who will be coaching its fall sports teams. Arlo Wusk was going to be manning the sidelines on Friday nights, and Stan Karr was going to be leading the way on the court. The football and volleyball duo had become mainstays in the Sterling community.
Now, both are retiring.
Wusk is hanging up the whistle after spending his entire 34-year career at Sterling, while Karr is retiring after spending 22 of his 32 years in coaching at the school. Together, the two combined for 728 victories, most of which came at Sterling. But now, there will be two new people leading the way in the fall of 2018.
Time flies when you’re having fun
“When I first started here, if you had an electric typewriter, you were one of the top teachers.”
It was a different time when Arlo Wusk first arrived at Sterling High School as a history teacher. Wusk, born and raised in Sterling, was offered the job back in 1983. He had been working on the family farm at the time Sterling offered the job for him. Teaching was never the intention Wusk had for his life, but with agriculture business being down in the early 1980s, he decided to leave his job on the farm and take the job with the school.
Needless to say, things turned out alright for Mr. Wusk.
Fast forward 35 years, and Wusk has decided to retire from teaching and coaching at Sterling. Of the 35 years at Sterling, Wusk spent 34 of them as the head football coach.
“Wow, we’ve come a long way,” Wusk said, referencing the development of technology during his tenure at Sterling.
It’s a quote that can also be applied to the time Wusk has had at Sterling.
Wusk won back-to-back state championships in 8-man football in 1991 and 1992. He was also an assistant coach on the boys’ basketball team that won a state championship in 1987. Sterling made the playoffs 23 times under Wusk, and he amassed a 193-126 record in his time as the Jets’ head football coach.
“Our kids were always competitive. It was very difficult to sustain that type of success,” Wusk said. “When you’re in the moment, it doesn’t seem that difficult. But then, when you step back and look at it and look at other schools, Sterling has been extremely fortunate. It’s because of our kids. They really work hard and get after it.”
After spending nearly four decades at the school, Wusk leaves with a plethora of memories. Picking one as his favorite was impossible for the former football coach.
“After 35 years, there’s so many. Ultimately, to see these young men and women compete and improve as student-athletes and people is great. And then, to see what they do after they leave Sterling High School,” Wusk said. “Whatever profession they pick, they are successful. These young men and women are salt of the earth people. They come back and support the Jets still, too. To witness that, personally, is a great feeling.”
A most memorable run
Stan Karr is excited to be able to attend the Husker Harvest Days in September this year.
“I haven’t been to those since I started teaching. It’s always conflicted with volleyball,” Karr said.
Karr, who’s been the volleyball coach at Sterling for the past 22 years, decided this was the right time to leave the teaching and coaching ranks. Karr had been a teacher and coach for ten years before coming to Sterling. Karr’s volleyball teams at Sterling had two state runner-up performances in 1998 and 2010, and finished in third place in 2013. He went 535-350 in his 32-year volleyball coaching career.
Karr echoed similar sentiments about his players that Wusk had for his.
“The kids here at Sterling work hard. And, that’s the type of culture I don’t want to see ever leave,” Karr said. “We worked hard in practice, and it led to us outworking our opponents in games. I enjoyed coaching and teaching them.”
It’s been a fun ride for Karr at Sterling, but the little things will be what Karr takes with him into retirement.
“I remember one year we won the conference championship in Chester, and the girls didn’t want to get off the floor after we won. They just wanted to stay there,” Karr said. “It was several hours afterwards and they were just seated there, talking. Those are kind of the neat memories I’ll remember.”
There was also a moment a few years ago when Karr reached his 500th career victory. Nearly 30 former Sterling players showed up to the awards banquet later that year to congratulate Karr on his accomplishment. The gesture came as a shock to Karr.
“That was overwhelming. I usually am not lost too often for words, but that really overwhelmed me. That they would take the time and come back to say thanks and congratulate me. It was special. That’s one of the highlights of my whole career,” Karr said.
Looking to the past to help with the future
Sterling has big shoes to fill for both Wusk and Karr. Fortunately, Sterling found two people who know Wusk and Karr fondly.
Current Sterling athletic director Brent Heusman will assume the role of head football coach. Heusman was on the 1991 and 1992 state championship football teams coached by Wusk. Heusman has also been an assistant under Wusk for the past 17 years, giving him 21 years of experience with the Sterling football program. Heusman is ready for the challenge of being the next football coach at Sterling. The Jets are moving from 8-man to 6-man football this year as well, making it a fresh start for Sterling football.
“Being 6-man presents some interesting challenges in itself, so we’re looking forward to that,” Heusman said. “We’re excited to play the 6-man game with the personnel we have. We think we can be pretty successful at it.”
Sterling also looked to a former player of Karr’s to be his replacement. K.T. Saathoff, who’s been the coach at Pawnee City for the past three years, will be the new Sterling volleyball coach next year. She is the wife of current Sterling boys’ basketball coach Andy Saathoff.
“Everything that I’ve ever learned has come from this place. I love the community,” Saathoff said. “I’m excited to be back and be a Jet again. It’s going to be difficult to replace someone like coach Karr. He’s like a legend around there. It’ll be a little nerve-racking coming in.”
So, now what?
Wusk, 64, and Karr, 65, now enter the next stages of their lives. Their plans, however, are different. Wusk plans on visiting Seattle in the summer before making a trip to Scotland in the fall.
“My wife (Barbara) and I love to travel. We are looking forward to going out and seeing the sites without having to worry about coming back and getting prepared for the lessons and practices,” Wusk said.
As for Karr, his plans aren’t as set in stone.
“There are things that I like doing, like construction and woodworking. I’m not sure what my plans are, though,” Karr said. “I have a lot of options. My wife (Teresa) is retiring, too, so we should be able to do some of the things that we like to do.”
At least they’ll be able to make it to the Husker Harvest Days.
This story originally ran in the May 10, 2018 edition of The Voice News.