Nick Gradinger, right, fends off a Stony Brook player during his college days at University of Denver. Photo courtesy of University of Denver Athletics
Nick Gradinger, right, fends off a Stony Brook player during his college days at University of Denver. Photo courtesy of University of Denver Athletics

Nick Gradinger, a former All-Ivy League player at powerhouse Cornell University and a coach at one of the top high school programs in the country, joined Park City's high school lacrosse staff today as an assistant coach focusing primarily on defense and the transition game.

Gradinger joins former prep-school teammate Todd Faiella himself an All-Ivy League player (Brown) and NCAA national champion (Virginia) who last fall became Park City's performance and technical director, plus offensive coordinator Ethan Fischer, a former high-school All American who played at Colgate University.

Head coach Andy Langendorf now leads the most experienced coaching unit in the state. Any one of these coaches would be coveted in his own right.

"We feel very fortunate to have a talent like Nick Gradinger joining our squad," said Langendorf. "Not only does he have a great playing résumé with knowledge of the latest, top-level schemes, but he's had great success coaching them."

Gradinger picked up the sport in Southern California just as that region started its ascent into lacrosse prominence. He graduated from San Diego's Torrey Pines High School in 2004, then spent a year at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, where he met Faiella. At Cornell, Gradinger quickly became a starting defenseman, and the Big Red made it to the 2007 NCAA final four his sophomore year.

After an All-Ivy-League campaign his junior season, a back injury sidelined Gradinger his senior year for which he received a medical redshirt. He headed to Denver University for graduate school, joining Princeton legend Bill Tierney for the coach's first season west of New Jersey. Gradinger was named captain, and Denver made the NCAA tournament.

Three years ago, Gradinger returned to San Diego, where he worked in marketing at Adrenaline Lacrosse, played professionally with LXM Lacrosse, and coached RC Starz, one of the most dominant club programs in the West. He also joined the coaching staff at Torrey Pines, a perennial power.

"Nick Gradinger is an amazing defensive coordinator," said Torrey Pines head coach Jono Zissi. "He coached with me the past three years. He's the best in the business a big reason we were among the top teams in the West all three seasons."

Now Gradinger brings his experience to Park City, just as Utah lacrosse has begun its own climb to prominence. This year several Utah players, including Park City senior Carson Dutkanych (Albany) and PC girls' team junior Hannah Hyatt (Boston College), committed to play at top Division I programs,.

"It's eerie to see the parallels between Utah lacrosse now and San Diego 10 years ago, particularly in Park City," Gradinger said.

"I'm excited to coach in such a gorgeous area, start a new chapter in my professional life and coach lacrosse here," he said.

Gradinger will be leading marketing at Park City-based Athletic Republic. "I approach everything with the loftiest of goals in mind; I wouldn't coach any other way. We have a highly touted, energetic coaching staff; I'm really excited to reunite with an old teammate, and I have high expectations for Park City this spring."

This week Park City Lacrosse Organization also named two new coaches to the freshman/sophomore team: Wes Stout, a Baltimore native and former head coach at Cincinnati's Colerain High School, and Garth Franklin, who played at Colby College in Maine.

Veteran coaches Jeff Brzoska, Steve McHenry and Mike Showers moved to the junior varsity squad last fall after a very successful spring season with Park City's first-ever freshman/sophomore team. Longtime coach Ryan Walsh will continue as an "at-large" coach, helping to teach individual skills and ensure the base varsity system is implemented at all levels.

Park City High School lacrosse registration is open and the varsity team faces its first test Feb. 28 at the Best of the West Tournament in Las Vegas. For more information, visit parkcitylacrosse.org.