Graham Snelding has coached football all over the country, but seldom this close to Tulsa.
A 1991 Shidler High graduate, Snelding has been recommended as the new head coach at Nowata, pending approval of the school board.
“Nowata has a lot of tradition and if you’re a football coach, you’ve gotta be excited about coming to a place like this,” he said.
Perennial contenders at the 2A level, the Ironmen won a state title in 1970 and had state runner-up finishes in 1988, 1995, 1999 and 2014.
But the program had gone downhill since 2014 — until Chris Messner guided the Ironmen to a 5-6 record and into the playoffs last season.
Snelding would replace Messner, who will be an Oologah assistant in 2020.
“(Messner) and his staff were doing a really good job. It looked like the kids got better as the season went on,” Snelding said. “We’ll roll up our sleeves and try to get this thing turned a little more in the right direction.”
A former U.S. Army tank gunner, Snelding was head coach at Newkirk the past two years, guiding the Tigers into the playoffs in 2018 and compiling an 8-13 overall record.
Before that, he had coached in programs all over the map. He guided Pawhuska to a 9-3 record in 2005 and was also head coach at Frederick, Blackwell and Marietta.
He served two stints as a Ponca City assistant and also had assistants’ jobs in Taylor County, Florida; and Clarksville and Teague, Texas.
Snelding played two years of football at Haskell Indian Nations University when the federally funded school for Native American students in Lawrence, Kansas, was a junior college.
He later coached three years at Haskell (1998-01), including one as a head coach when the school was transitioning to become a four-year institution.