Until recently, Ryan Knorr didn’t even know he wanted to be an athletic director.
But the 31-year-old decided to trade in his teaching job in social studies and as a coach to give it a shot when the opportunity presented itself.
The chance came when former Overland athletic director Stephen DeSchryver earned a promotion to assistant principal and Knorr went after the open job, which he got. He is one of three new ADs at Aurora high schools ahead of the 2016-17 school year, joining Rob Matuschek at Grandview and Rodney Padilla at Hinkley.
“I was very content being a teacher, especially at this school, but I didn’t know that was a path I wanted to go on until I had an evaluator who opened my eyes in terms of the impact I could have on more kids,” Knorr told the Sentinel.
“Through seeing his leadership in terms of inspiring me and coaching me to want to be a better teacher and coach, that’s when the lights went on. I saw I could have a larger reach than just the 120 kids I had each semester.”
While Matuschek (who came over from Cherry Creek) and Padilla (who came from Chaparral) are at new schools, Knorr is very familiar with Overland since the University of Colorado graduate began teaching social studies there in 2010.
He has served as an assistant football coach (under former coach Ron Woolfork and current coach Seth Replogle) and as head track coach for the past two years, which has given him an appreciation for Overland’s unique demographic spectrum.
“I think our strength is our diversity,” Knorr said. “We have a lot of perspectives from all over the world that come together and I think athletics is a great place where that shines. In no other areas are you working with teammates or people from around the world on a common goal of winning.
“I think the bonding as a team fosters mutual respect and understanding and it’s a huge asset to our community.”
Knorr said his ultimate goal is to make the Trailblazers competitive in the Centennial League in every sport.
Overland’s boys basketball team needs no help in that area, as coach Danny Fisher’s team has won the past two Class 5A state championships and energized the school in noticeable ways.
The Overland gymnastics team — a co-op team includes gymnasts from schools all over Aurora and a few others — won four 5A state championships over a six-year span from 2009-2014, but had only a few students from the actual school on the roster. It had been a long wait for any other Overland squad, as the 1997 5A title of the girls track team was the first for the school until the boys basketball team won the first of two consecutive crowns in 2014-15.
“I think the basketball team really is the opening chapter to what Overland can be,” Knorr said. “Pardon the pun, but they’ve really ‘blazed’ a trail that our kids are state championship-worthy. That wasn’t necessarily the norm until the school watched them do it two years in a row.
“The expectations in the community have risen and along with that the belief that we can win championships.”
Overland has a total off 22 state championships to its credit all-time.
Just on the job, Knorr had to go through one of the most interesting processes of the job, hiring a new coach.
Overland needed to find a boys soccer coach for the upcoming season — which starts in just a few weeks — to replace Yilma Kebede, who was at the helm during last season’s 2-11-1 campaign.
The solution turned out to be having girls soccer Alicia Montgomery take over offseason activities and serve as an interim coach with one of a new set of assistants expected to take over the job after the 2016 season is complete.
The head wrestling coach job is also posted after Cameron Seger held the job for one year and Knorr will also have to replace himself as head track coach.
Knorr also takes over at a time where there is transition in football, as the Centennial League was broken up by realignment this season. The Trailblazers will play fellow league member Grandview again in the new Mount Massive conference, which will also include Smoky Hill (a former Centennial League team and a big Overland rival, with the Wagon Wheel traveling trophy at stake when they play) plus Arapahoe, Boulder and Doherty.
Being in the Centennial League, Knorr will have very close contact with his alma mater, Smoky Hill, which he graduated from in 2003 before going on to CU-Boulder to get a psych degree. He returned to Smoky Hill and served as an assistant coach on the football team with John Thompson, who has since moved into the role of athletic director at the school.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel