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Pinedale football will step into a new high-energy era this fall. Former assistant coach Clay Cundall, a two-time Star-Tribune Super 25 selection in his playing days, has been promoted to head coach of the Wranglers, the school's activities director, Jake Rich, told the Star-Tribune. Cundall takes over for former head coach Mitch Espeland, who resigned last month after coaching the Wranglers for three seasons.

"I would like to thank Mr. Rich and our district for giving me this opportunity," Cundall said. "I  could not be more excited to lead this program."

Cundall served as an assistant on Espeland’s coaching staff and the former head coach had some high praise for the Wranglers’ new man.

“Hiring him as an assistant coach was definitely one of the best decisions I made as an HC,” Espeland said in a text to the Star-Tribune.

Cundall, a former two-time all-state selection at Greybull, takes over the program with contagious excitement and energy. That’s how he played at Greybull, Chadron State and in the 2011 Shrine Bowl Game, where he was named the game’s MVP playing both linebacker and quarterback. That excitement and attachment to football made him stand out from the field during the hiring process.

“I am yet to meet someone with as much passion for the game as Clay has,” Rich said. “He knows it inside and out and desires for our student body to love the game as much as he does.”

Energy, passion and knowledge can only benefit the program, which has hit a rut in recent years. The Wranglers’ 6-4 season in 2016 is their only winning season — and playoff appearance — since the 2008 season. Those are the only two winning seasons for the program since the turn of the millennium. Admittedly, it’s going to take work to turn the Wranglers around, and Rich has no doubt he has the right man for that job.

“We will not lose a game next year due to lack of preparation,” Rich said. “I know that he will put in the time and have kids in the best situation possible to make us successful.”

Cundall elaborated on that by stating his brief mission statement for the team.

"We will strive to be a blue-collar mentality team who plays the game for all the right reasons," he said.

Rich also cited Cundall’s family line for reasons to believe in the first-year coach. Clay’s father, John, coached at Greybull and Gillette for a combined 10 seasons where he went 52-47 and made the playoffs in nine seasons — including three straight state championship appearances at Gillette. Since retirement John Cundall was named director of the Shrine Bowl Game and was honored last year by the National Football Foundation Wyoming Chapter for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football.

With a storied Wyoming lineage and contagious excitement, Clay Cundall is supported by family and co-workers going into his first head coaching job. The overwhelming attitude out of Pinedale is that the best is yet to come.

“I’m pumped he got the job,” Espeland said. “I think he’s going to do a lot of good things for the team and kids.”

The new head coach said he's excited to begin his tenure by taking the Wranglers to the Chadron State team camp, where Cundall played in college, as well as through the team's summer training program.

Cundall joins Russell Stienmetz at Torrington, Andrew Rose at Gillette, Nicc Crosby at Lovell and Jim Burton at Evanston as those who will serve as head football coaches for the first time this season. He did not return comment on his hiring Friday afternoon.

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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