PINEDALE –Kellen Schupp didn’t know his coach was going to the State Soccer Tournament in Cheyenne. Having missed out on the tournament this year as the fifth seed in the 3A West Conference, the Pinedale High School boys’ soccer team ended its season a weekend earlier.
But coach J.D. Dudrey went anyway. He didn’t have a match to coach but he wasn’t done fighting for one of his players.
Dudrey drove to Cheyenne with full intention of convincing coaches gathered there that Schupp, one of the Wranglers’ standout defenders, was worthy of the All-State team. Sure, Pinedale didn’t make the tournament. But he saw the All-State credentials whereas other coaches maybe didn’t see Schupp play at all, tucked away on the shadowy side of the Wind River Mountain Range.
“It was an honor just to hear about that, even if I didn’t get it,” Schupp said. “For someone to put that time in for me means a lot.”
Dudrey’s efforts paid off. Schupp was listed among the Class 3A All-State boys’ soccer team when the Wyoming Coaches Association announced this year’s list. With that honor, Schupp became the first Pinedale soccer player to earn the distinction since Vicente Acosta in 2018.
Schupp found about the news that Saturday, as the final championship games were played. His hard work finally paid off.
“It was definitely a big wave of emotion,” he said. “I was really caught off guard by it but it was really validating.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was 3 years old. To get All-State my senior year, I was really pumped.”
Raised on it
By all accounts, Pinedale’s newest All-State soccer player’s field dreams were set in motion before he was even born. His father played soccer for one of Casper’s traveling teams growing up and also played in high school.
There remain memories – some of his earliest – of Schupp growing up, kicking the ball around.
“Soccer has been part of my life for as long as I can remember,” he said. “It’s been a huge impact on me.”
He continued to play the sport that he loved. The stakes raised when he got to high school and an opportunity to play for the Wranglers – as well as for a State Championship – came into play.
While he wasn’t immediately on the varsity Wranglers team, he honed his skills and made some of his favorite soccer memories.
One such memory was when he played in a junior varsity game his freshman year. Pinedale won a free kick at exactly the midfield mark. Schupp decided he was going to put it on net. He squared to it, timed his run-up and gave it a go. The ball soared with determination as if on an airwave, shouted at the goal’s nylon netting. Schupp was ecstatic. It was his first high school goal.
“Somehow it got in,” he said. “It was my first high school goal and it went in.”
He practiced and developed his sophomore year. His junior year was struck down by the pandemic. That left only his senior season. Fall and winter sports commenced through public health measures, so he felt good about his final year.
The Pinedale boys got together at the start of the season and decided the team’s goal was to make the State Tournament. That’s something the program hadn’t done since 2014.
The team’s promising start was dismissed following a rough mid-season stretch where the Wranglers played the best teams in the 3A West before spending consecutive weeks away from the friendly confines of home. Despite recouping points in the season’s final weekend against Lyman and Mountain View, the Wranglers were once again left on the outside looking in.
Pinedale finished nine points shy of forcing a three-way tie with Cody and Lander for two of the conference’s final playoff spots.
But it wasn’t all a lost season. After years of lobbying, Schupp finally convinced his best friend to join the soccer team. Keegan Gehlhausen joined the Wranglers for one season and became a valued addition in goal.
Schupp remembered playing on the Wrangler backline with Gehlhausen behind during the team’s first practice. It took some effort to convince him to get that far, but Schupp was thrilled.
“That was my favorite memory. It felt great,” he said. “I remember the first practice he showed up, and by the end he had a huge grin on his face.”
Even with his love for the sport, Schupp didn’t think he was exceptional – at least not until this year.
“I was kind of a mediocre player until this year,” he said.
Dudrey told Schupp about midway through the season that he thought All-Conference honors were a realistic possibility. The rest of the season put the senior over the top and in into elite company.
Schupp thanked coach Dudrey and assistant coach Stevenson for helping him develop his soccer skills. He also thanked Logan Gehlhausen, who became his trainer the past two years. Personalized workout programs helped Schupp’s growth into an All-State defender.
The road ahead
Despite his history and love for the sport, Schupp didn’t think he’d play soccer in college. In fact, his plans were to go to the University of Wyoming to play club hockey. That’s the sport he found when he was 5 and has provided him with another endurance sport, as well as an outlet that allows him to get more aggressively physical than soccer.
“Hockey is my competitive sport and soccer is my relaxed sport,” he said.
But last week Schupp got an invitation to play in the annual all-star soccer matches in Gillette. Those pit some of the best players in the state against each other for one last bit of high school soccer during July. It also gives college coaches an avenue to attract last-minute recruits.
“That kind of changed direction for me,” he said. “There’s been some coaches there looking.”
So he stares at an unknown future, at least for a little bit. Possibilities hang in the air. He could go to Laramie to play his competitive sport for a few more years at Wyoming’s only four-year university. Or he could prove to college coaches just how far he could go on the field. He could play his way onto a college soccer team.
Why not? After all, one coach has already gone to bat for him.