Garrett Hartwig is the head football coach at West High.
No strings attached, no asterisks, no interim or acting tags.
West High announced Tuesday that it has tapped Hartwig to lead its football program for the second time in less than a year.
Hartwig was named interim head coach last June, replacing Brian Sauser, who resigned to take a coaching position in Oklahoma.
West High finished 7-5 last season under Hartwig.
On Tuesday, the interim tag was officially removed from Hartwig’s title.
“I don’t think I would have had the resume to stack up with the quality candidates that would apply here without any prior head-coaching experience,” Hartwig said. “Things work out for a reason and now I had that line to put on there and I’m lucky.”
Hartwig was named 4A district coach of the year by the Iowa Football Coaches Association last season after leading West High to the 4A quarterfinals for the first time since 2011.
West High upset sixth-ranked Linn-Mar 38-34 to reach the quarterfinals before falling to eventual 4A runner-up Cedar Rapids Washington.
“He definitely has the support and the enthusiasm from the kids and community kind of based on last year both in terms of his success on field but also in terms of his relationships with the kids,” West High athletic director Scott Kibby said. “He is just really eager to jump in with both feet and immerse himself in football and he is very bright and I think we are just going to keep getting better and better the more he continues to learn.”
Hartwig is no stranger to West High.
He spent six seasons as an assistant coach on Sauser’s staff as the defensive coordinator.
When Sauser resigned to take a coaching job at Yukon High School in Oklahoma last May, it was Hartwig who took the reins of the program in June.
“I walked into it with my eyes open for sure,” Hartwig said. “I understood at the end of the year with the sudden resignation of Coach Sauser it was such a quick turnaround that we needed to do what was best at the time for the program.”
Hartwig took the job last June not sure if he was interested in a long-term head-coaching job.
Also an English teacher at West High with a wife and two young children, the 33-year-old said he looked at last season as a chance to both prove himself as a head coach and find out if it was something he wanted to pursue.
Both of those questions were answered, as West High won six of its final nine games.
“I didn’t want to commit to something long-term given my position and with a young family,” Hartwig said. “I didn’t know if it was something I needed or wanted to do and I was willing to try it for a five-month period and it was one of the best experiences I could have imagined. That certainly propelled me into wanting the position full time.”
A Wyoming native, Hartwig played college football at the University of South Dakota, where he was a strong safety for the Coyotes.
He was team captain during his senior season at South Dakota in 2004.
West High opens the 2015 season Aug. 28 at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
“We see Garrett as a young coach with unlimited potential,” West High principal Jerry Arganbright said. “I think he has the right attitude, I think has the right disposition that my expectation would be that he would be very successful in helping our kids be highly competitive starting next year.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.