After 30 years of coaching football and wrestling, longtime Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten announced he is retiring at the end of the school year.
Braaten took over the Mesa Ridge football program in 2006 and has been the coach of the wrestling team since 2012. He coached at Yuma for 15 seasons prior to moving to Mesa Ridge.
“It is just time,” Braaten said. “For 30 years I’ve been coaching two sports and I think it’s time to spend a little more time with my family and grandkids.”
Braaten’s son and longtime assistant Tyler Herbst will step in as the school’s wrestling coach.
“(Tyler) has been with me for nine years and it’s been so much fun to watch him grow up as a part of this team,” Braaten said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to watch him, and he’s ready.”
Braaten has coached four state wrestling champions and three runners-up since 2016. In 2021, Braaten coached Matthew Moore to a 4A heavyweight title as a sophomore, and freshman Isabella Cross to the state final in the first sanctioned girls’ state wrestling tournament.
The football program was 73-78 under Braaten’s tenure dating to 2006. Former Mitchell and Vista Ridge coach Jerimi Calip will take over to coach the football team.
Calip spent five years at Vista Ridge before working as the offensive coordinator at Palmer, and last year took over as coach at Mitchell. His position with the Marauders has been filled by Jason Cauley, who replaced Calip at Vista Ridge in 2019.
“I’m excited that the program is getting a guy that understands how to do it. He’s done it before and had a lot of success,” Braaten said. “I’m excited that I get to do my thing and know the programs that I’m so proud of are going to be taken over by good men.”
Braaten has received numerous coaching awards, including selection as the 2020 Colorado High School Coaches Association all-state wrestling coach, and was selected as The Gazette Preps Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2018.
He has received an offer to become a corporate trainer, which will allow him to continue to teach, and have nights and weekends free to spend with his six grandkids.
“Probably the biggest lesson I learned was to enjoy the small moments,” Braaten said. “Coaching a state champion wrestler, tournament or a ballgame is fun, but it’s the moments when you see a kid get better, or laugh and enjoy being with the other guys after practice. When I was young I didn’t notice it much, but I’ve learned it’s the little moments that make the big ones special.”