COACH SPOTLIGHT: OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY’S JOHN SMITH

As found on Oklahoma State University’s website, below is head coach John Smith’s bio. Learn about this coach’s career:

John Smith is a name synonymous with wrestling success.

The Oklahoma State head coach won six consecutive world championships as a competitor from 1987-92, including gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Additionally, he owns five national championships as head coach of the Cowboys.

Recently completing his 30th year, Smith accepted the head coaching position at Oklahoma State in 1992 and the numbers and accomplishments since that time speak for themselves. He has led his alma mater to five NCAA team titles in 1994, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, and he has coached 33 NCAA individual champions and five Olympians. Under his watch, the Cowboys have brought 21 team conference tournament championships, two Big 12 regular season titles and 126 individual conference titles back to Stillwater. He has seen his student-athletes earn All-America recognition 148 times, an average of 4.9 All-America honorees per year. Smith also has coached two Hodge Trophy recipients in Alex Dieringer and Steve Mocco.

He was recognized as the National Wrestling Coaches Association coach of the year in 1994 and 2003 and is a 15-time selection as his conference’s coach of the year (1994 and 1996 in the Big Eight and 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 2014, 2015 and 2016 in the Big 12).

Most recently, Smith led his squad to its ninth consecutive Big 12 tournament title, with three Cowboys claiming individual Big 12 Conference titles in 2021.

This past season, the Cowboys went 10-0 in duals on the year, marking the program’s 47th undefeated regular season and second in three seasons. Oklahoma State qualified eight wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, with Wyatt Sheets being added to the tournament as a late addition at 157 pounds. Entering the tournament ranked sixth in the nation, the Cowboys finished third for the 16th time with Smith at the helm. Six wrestlers earned All-America honors including national runner-up Daton Fix (133), Boo Lewallen (149), Sheets (157), Travis Wittlake (165), Dakota Geer (184) and true freshman national champion AJ Ferrari (197).

The Pokes greatly outperformed their seed at the tournament, placing 39 spots higher as a team than what was expected by their original seeds. The next highest was 18 points below OSU with 21.

In 2019 the Cowboys finished with a 15-0 dual mark. It was the first undefeated team for the Cowboys since 2005. The Pokes earned spots at nine weights for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh, where Nick Piccininni (125), Daton Fix (133), Dakota Geer (184), Preston Weigel (197) and Derek White (HWT) claimed All-America honors.

OSU brought home a third-place finish from the national tournament for the second time in three years and finished in the top three for the 15th time with Smith at the helm.

A native of Del City, Okla., Smith owns a 449-65-6 career dual match record as a head coach (.863 winning pct.).

The Pokes took a full squad to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in 2017, where Dean Heil finished off an undefeated season at 32-0 to take home his second-straight NCAA title at 141 pounds.

Joining Heil on the podium were seven other Cowboys to tie a program record: Nick Piccininni (4th, 125), Kaid Brock (5th, 133), Joe Smith (4th, 157), Chandler Rogers (5th, 165), Kyle Crutchmer (7th, 174), Nolan Boyd (6th, 184) and Preston Weigel (6th, 197). Brock and Piccininni combined to become the first pair of Cowboy freshmen to notch fifth-place-or-better finishes in the same year since 2001.

The Cowboys finished the 2017 national tournament in third despite scoring 103 team points to mark the 12th time that an OSU wrestling team has surpassed 100 points at the event, wrapping up a campaign that saw the Pokes go 14-1 in dual action.

Smith led OSU to four consecutive NCAA team championships from 2003 through 2006.

The 2003 squad compiled a perfect 17-0 dual meet record, won the Big 12 team title, crowned six individual Big 12 champions and featured a pair of NCAA individual champions in Johnny Thompson and Jake Rosholt.

The NCAA Champion Chris Pendleton-led squad sported a 17-2 dual meet record, won the Big 12 team title and crowned four individual Big 12 champions in 2004.

Under Smith’s watch, Oklahoma State compiled a 21-0 dual meet record in 2005, the most recent undefeated dual season before the 2019 season. That team capped the season with one of the most dominant showings in the history of the NCAA Championships when an NCAA-record five Cowboys were crowned NCAA champions. Zack Esposito won at 149 with Johny Hendricks taking the 165 championship. Pendleton repeated as an NCAA champion at 174, Jake Rosholt claimed the title at 197 and Steve Mocco won the heavyweight championship. OSU wrestlers compiled a 38-9 record at the NCAA Championships that year and the Cowboys set school records for points, margin of victory and national champions. Oklahoma State scored 153 team points to top second-place Michigan by 70 points.

Smith and the Cowboys went 16-2 in dual meets en route to claiming their fourth consecutive NCAA team title in 2006, under the leadership of Hendricks and Rosholt, who both claimed their second consecutive NCAA individual championships.

Smith won his first of five NCAA team championships in 1994 when the Cowboys compiled a 13-1 dual meet record, won the Big 8 team championship, crowned four individual Big 8 champions and three NCAA individual champions in Alan Fried, Mark Branch and Smith’s younger brother and first-ever four-time NCAA champion, Pat Smith.

For all of the championships and success he continues to enjoy as a coach, it is his career as a wrestler that is the stuff of legend. Smith truly was the best wrestler in the world.

In brief, Smith compiled a 105-5 record as a high school wrestler at Del City High School in Del City, Okla., before beginning his collegiate career at Oklahoma State, where he put together a 152-8-2 record that included a pair of NCAA individual championships in 1987 and 1988. He was a three-time All-America selection in 1985, 1987 and 1988. On the international stage, Smith rolled to a 100-5 career record that included six world championships (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992), two Olympic gold medals (1988 and 1992), two Pan American Games gold medals (1987 and 1991) and two Goodwill Games gold medals (1986 and 1990).

To this day, Smith holds Oklahoma State school records for career victories (152), single-season victories (47 in 1988), career bonus-point wins (113), single-season bonus-point wins (39 in both 1987 and 1988) and single-season bonus point win percentage (90.7 in 1987). A three-time Big Eight Conference individual champion in 1985, 1987 and 1988, Smith wrestled primarily at 134 during his collegiate career, where he strung together a 124-4 overall record. He also competed at 126, compiling a 27-4-2 overall mark, and won his lone career match at 142.

After Smith’s junior year at Oklahoma State, he won the first of his six world championships in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Smith was the only collegiate wrestler to win a world championship while still in college until 2017 when Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) claimed a title in Paris. Following his graduation in 1988, Smith qualified for the U.S. Olympic freestyle team and came away from the Seoul Olympics with the first of two Olympic gold medals and the second of six consecutive world titles.

Three more world championships ensued in 1989, 1990 and 1991 before Smith claimed the second of his Olympic gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona games to cement his legacy as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

His list of awards and honors received befits someone who earned the distinction of being the best wrestler on the planet. Smith was honored as the first wrestler to ever claim the James E. Sullivan Award as America’s outstanding amateur athlete when he won the award in 1990. He was the first American ever chosen as the Master of Technique and Wrestler of the Year by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) when he received the honor in 1990. In 1992, he was presented with the Amateur Athletic Foundation’s World Trophy, becoming the first North American wrestler to earn the honor. A 2003 inductee into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and a 1997 inductee into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Smith was recognized as one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All Time at the 1996 Atlanta Games. That same year, Smith was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Honor.

Smith was the 1991 selection as FILA’s Outstanding Wrestler of the Year after earning Man of the Year honors from Amateur Wrestling News in 1988, Athlete of the Year recognition from USA Wrestling in 1989 and Sportsman of the Year honors from the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1990.

In 2004, the U.S. Olympic Committee presented Smith with the Titan Award, and the next year, he joined his brother Pat as one of 15 wrestlers named to the NCAA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

The Smith family legacy is strong at Oklahoma State, as John’s older brother Lee Roy was a three-time All-American in 1977, 1979 and 1980 and claimed the 1980 national championship. John was a three-time All-American in 1985, 1987 and 1988 with a pair of national titles in 1987 and 1988 and younger brother Pat was a four-time All-American with four national championships in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994.

Smith also successfully established a wrestling club that allows wrestlers from across the country to prepare and train for international competition. The Gator Wrestling Club sent three former Oklahoma State wrestlers to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games. Jamill Kelly won the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, with Daniel Cormier finishing fourth and Eric Guerrero also representing the USA in Athens.

In 1995, Smith married the former Toni Donaldson. The couple has three sons – Joseph, Samuel and Levi and two daughters – Isabelle and Cecilia.

Coaching Career
:: Oklahoma State’s All-Time Winningest Coach with a 449-65-6 career record
:: Two-Time NWCA National Coach of the Year (1994, 2003)
:: Five-Time NCAA Champion Coach (1994, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)
:: 23-Time Conference Champion Coach (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 (reg seas), 2013 (reg seas/tourn), 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
:: 13-Time Big 12 Coach of the Year (1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
:: Two-Time Big Eight Coach of the Year (1994, 1996)
:: 33 NCAA Individual Champions Coached
:: 148 NCAA All-Americans Coached
:: 126 Conference Individual Champions Coached
:: Coach, USA Olympic Wrestling Team (2000, 2012)
:: Coach, USA Men’s World Championships Team (1998, 2009, 2010, 2011)
:: Coach, USA Women’s World Championships Team (2017)
:: Coach, USA World Cup Team (1997)
:: Coach, USA Women’s Cadet World Team (2018)

Wrestling Career
:: Six-Time World Champion Wrestler (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992)
:: Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist (1988, 1992)
:: Two-Time Pan American Games Gold Medalist (1987, 1991)
:: Two-Time Goodwill Games Gold Medalist (1986, 1990)
:: Two-Time NCAA Wrestling Champion (1987, 1988)
:: Three-Time NCAA All-American (1985, 1987, 1988)
:: Three-Time Big Eight Champion (1985, 1987, 1988)
:: First North American wrestler to claim the Amateur Athletic Foundation World Trophy (1992)
:: First Ever American to earn FILA’s Master of Technique Award (Best technical wrestler in the world, 1990)
:: First Wrestler to win James E. Sullivan Award (Nation’s top amateur athlete, 1990)
:: U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year (1990)
:: FILA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year (1991)
:: USA Wrestling Athlete of the Year (1989)
:: Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year (1988)
:: U.S. Olympic Committee Titan Award (2004)
:: Named one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All-Time (1996)
:: Member, FILA Hall of Fame (Inducted in 2003)
:: Distinguished Member, National Wrestling Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997)
:: Member, Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997)
:: Member, NCAA 75th Anniversary Team (2005)
:: NWCA College Wrestler of the Year (1987)

Records as a Wrestler
International Record: 100-5
Domestic Freestyle Record: 77-3
Collegiate Record: 152-8-2
High School Record: 105-5

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY’S DAMION HAHN

As found on the South Dakota State University’s website, below is head coach Damion Hahn’s bio. Learn about this coach’s career:

Damion Hahn is overseeing a successful rebuilding of South Dakota State University wrestling as he enters his third season at the helm of the Jackrabbits’ program.

During the 2019-20 season, the Jackrabbits returned to the winning side of the ledger in dual competition by posting a 12-6 overall record, including a 6-3 mark against Big 12 Conference opponents. Included in the dual victories were wins over nationally ranked Northern Iowa and Stanford.

SDSU also improved by six spots in the Big 12 Conference Wrestling Championship, finishing fourth in the team standings at the 2020 competition. Four Jackrabbit wrestlers earned automatic qualifying berths in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, with another receiving a bid as an alternate. The NCAA Championships were later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the National Wrestling Coaches Association selected 149-pounder Henry Pohlmeyer, 184-pounder Zach Carlson and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan as second-team All-Americans.

In his first season at SDSU, Hahn faced a rebuilding task as the Jackrabbits featured new starters in six spots in the lineup. SDSU finished with a 3-10 dual mark, including a 2-7 record against Big 12 foes. Pohlmeyer was the lone NCAA qualifier.

Hahn was hired at SDSU on April 9, 2018, following more than a decade of success as a member of the coaching staff at Cornell (N.Y.).

“Damion represents everything we are looking for in being able to take our wrestling program to the next level,” said SDSU Director of Athletics Justin Sell in announcing the hire. “His success both as a collegiate wrestler and coach, along with his ability to recruit high-achieving student-athletes on and off the mat, made him the ideal candidate. He is a tremendous ambassador for the sport who will work tirelessly to ensure wrestling thrives both on our campus and across the country.”

Hahn spent 12 years as an assistant coach and later the associate head coach at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. During his tenure, the Big Red recorded 11 top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including consecutive runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011. He mentored 50 All-Americans, 12 of whom were individual NCAA champions. Cornell also won 12 straight Ivy League dual championships and 11 consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association team titles.

In accepting his first head coaching position, Hahn made a return to the Midwest. As a collegiate wrestler at Minnesota, Hahn won NCAA individual national titles as a junior and senior. A four-time All-American, he also was a three-time Big 10 individual champion and was named the Jesse Owens Big 10 Male Athlete of the Year in 2004. The Golden Gophers won team NCAA championships during both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He finished his collegiate career with a 118-21 record.

Hahn was inducted into the University of Minnesota’s M Club Hall of Fame in 2018.

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: DREXEL UNIVERSITY’S MATT AZEVEDO

Matt Azevedo, the Mert and Joanne Hill Head Coach of Wrestling, is in his 11th season as head coach of Drexel Wrestling in 2021-22 after joining the Dragons in April 2011 following successful coaching stints at Cornell and Cal Poly. Azevedo has led the program’s resurgence and ushered in a new era of Drexel Wrestling in the EIWA. The 2020 inductee into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame is the eighth head coach in the school’s history and replaced Jack Childs, who retired after 35 seasons at Drexel.The Dragons have climbed onto the national scene and into the national rankings under Azevedo. The Dragons earned their first USA Today/NWCA DI Coaches Poll national ranking under Azevedo and remained ranked in the Top 25 for six weeks during the 2016-17 season. The following year, the Dragons finished the 2017-18 regular season ranked in the top 25 of four separate polls – USA Today/NWCA DI Coaches, FloWrestling, Intermat tournament and Intermat dual – for the first time in program history.

On the mat, the Dragons have won 78 matches, including 10-win seasons in three of the last six years under Azevedo’s guidance. In 2016-17, Drexel finished with 13 dual victories, its most since the 2006-07 season. The Dragons have taken down ranked nationally ranked opponents in three of the last six years – No. 21 Rider, 18-14, in Feb. 2018; No. 25 Princeton in Dec. 2016; and No. 20 Northwestern, 21-20, in Nov. 2015. Drexel also dramatically came back to tie the overall score at 20-20 on a late third-period pin against No. 5 Lehigh in Dec. 2017, despite the Mountain Hawks winning on criteria. The Dragons also recorded major victories over Penn in 2016, their first since 1989, against Hofstra in 2013, their first since 1997, and against Binghamton in 2020, their first since 2006.

Azevedo has coached 38 NCAA Wrestling Championships qualifiers in his first 10 seasons at the helm. Despite having the 2019-20 season cut short and the 2020-21 season shortened due to the pandemic, the Dragons had all 10 wrestlers place at the EIWA Championships for the first time in program history and sent a program-best (tied with 2002 season) six wrestlers  to the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis. Parker Kropman (157) Michael O’Malley (174), and Bryan McLaughlin (197) each qualified for their second appearance in tournament while Julian Flores (141), Luke Nichter (149) and Evan Barczak (165) each received their first automatic bid to NCAA’s. In 2020, Antonio Mininno (125), Michael O’Malley (174) and Bryan McLaughlin (197) earned automatic bids to their first-ever championships, and Ebed Jarrell (165) received an at-large selection to the tournament. Additionally, Parker Kropman (157) was named the first alternate at his weight class. In 2019, Drexel qualified four Dragons for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh: Kropman (149), Jarrell (165), Stephen Loiseau (197) and Joey Goodhart (285). In 2018, the Dragons sent a then program-best five wrestlers to Cleveland, Ohio for NCAAs.

Three Dragons have gone on to win three conference championships during Azevedo’s tenure. Matt Cimato took home the EIWA title at 149 pounds in 2016 the year after Kevin Devoy won the EIWA title at 133 pounds in 2015. In 2013, 197-pounder Brandon Palik became Drexel’s final CAA champion. The Dragons have seen the EIWA podium become commonplace over the last eight years as 47 wrestlers have placed at the conference tournament. In 2021, Drexel had all 10 wrestlers place at EIWA’s, passing the previous program-record eight in 2018. The Dragons performance was highlighted by a second-place finish by Michael O’Malley (174), a third place finish by Luke Nichter (149) and three fourth-place finishes by Julian Flores (141), Bryan McLaughlin (197) and Evan Barczak (165).

In the classroom, Drexel Wrestling has been a standout academic program in the nation. Drexel finished as an NWCA DI Top 30 All-Academic Team for the eighth-straight season and has boasted the nation’s best team GPA twice. In 2021, the Dragons earned a spot as the seventh highest GPA in the nation at 3.46 and led the list of individual honorees. In 2020, the Dragons claimed high honors with a 3.59 GPA. The year prior, the Dragons were the top academic DI wrestling team in the country with a program-best 3.63 GPA. The Dragons have had 27 NWCA Academic All-America individual selections during that time, including 10 in 2021 – Kyle Waterman, Chandler Olson, Jaxon Maroney, Tyler Williams, Gabe Onorato, Jared Donahue, Luke Nichter, Parker Kropman, Evan Barczak and Michael O’Malley. Thirty-nine wrestlers have earned EIWA All-Academic Team selections since the award began in 2016, including eight in 2021 – Kyle Waterman, Chandler Olson, Luke Nichter, Parker Kropman, Evan Barczak, Michael O’Malley, Bryan McLaughlin and Sean O’Malley, and eight in 2020 – Owen Brooks, Vincent Foggia, Jarrell, Kropman, Michael O’Malley, Sean O’Malley, Chase Shields and Tyler Williams. Also, 11 wrestlers have been named Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area At-Large Team selections, including Jarrell in 2020 when he was named a co-performer of the year. Jarrell capped a stellar five-year career in University City with an appearance on the CoSIDA Academic All-District 2 Men’s At-Large Team.

While at Cornell, Azevedo helped the Big Red earn nine All-America honors, nine EIWA champions and seven Academic All-Americans. He also guided the team to back-to-back second-place finishes at the NCAA championships, which marked the best performance in school history. Prior to his time at Cornell, Azevedo spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly, where he coached seven All-Americans and eight Pac-10 champions. He also helped guide Cal Poly to its highest finish in school history at the Pac-10 championships by placing second in 2004 and 2006.

Azevedo wrestled collegiately at Arizona State and Iowa State, each for two seasons. He advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons. Azevedo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Iowa State in 2002. He continued his wrestling career after graduation and went on to be a seven-time U.S. National place winner, two-time U.S. National Team member and won the 2008 U.S. Open National Championship.

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: PURDUE UNIVERSITY’S TONY ERSLAND


• In seven years, Ersland has secured 16 top-100 recruits and five top-25 recruiting classes … the class of 2016 was ranked No. 6 by FloWrestling, No. 7 by InterMat and No. 8 by WIN Magazine … the class of 2017 was ranked No. 13 by FloWrestling, No. 18 by InterMat and No. 22 by TheOpenMat.com … the InterMat ranking is the third highest for Purdue with records dating to 2004 … Ersland is credited with two of those top three recruiting classes: 2016 and 2017 … the class of 2018 was ranked 18th by FloWrestling and 25th by TheOpenMat.com … the class of 2020 was ranked No. 13 by FloWrestling, No. 20 by InterMat and No. 22 by MatScouts … the class of 2021 was ranked 17th by WIN Magazine, No. 20 by InterMat and No. 22 by MatScouts.
 
• Has sent 45 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships … has matched a program high with eight qualifiers four times in seven years, including the last three years in a row … Purdue previously qualified eight in 1993 and 2003 … the eight qualifiers in 2015 were the most since 2010.
 
• Forty Boilermakers have placed at the Big Ten Championships under Ersland, with eight earning podium finishes in 2020 and 2021 … the eight placewinners match the program record and are the most since 2004 … Purdue placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships in 2020 (83.0 points), marking the Boilermakers’ best conference finish since 1992, and their most points since points 89 in 2004 … the Boilermakers finished sixth in 2021 (76.0 points), marking the first time Purdue finished in the top-six in back-to-back seasons since placing fifth in 1991 and 1992.
 
• Ersland’s squad has ranked in 22 straight NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll’s, dating to Nov. 12, 2019, and has received votes in 57 consecutive polls, every week since the final poll of the 2016-17 season … the Boilermakers have climbed as high as No. 13 in the nation during the streak, earning the votes in three straight weeks in 2018-19, and again in back-to-back weeks during the 2019-20 campaign … Purdue finished the 2019-20 season ranked 15th in the country, the best final ranking for an Ersland-coached team and the top end-of-season mark for the Boilermakers since 2012-13 (No. 14).
 
• The Boilermakers were tabbed 18th in the 2018-19 preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking since 1991-92 … during the season, the Purdue wrestling team climbed as high as No. 13 in Theraworx NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll, the program’s highest ranking in nearly 10 years … the last time Purdue was ranked 13th or higher was Feb. 17, 1999, where the Boilermakers checked in at No. 13.
 
• In 2019-20, Purdue had as many as eight nationally ranked wrestlers at one time, the first time on record in program history, with nine wrestlers earning a national rank at some point during the season … the team repeated the feat in 2020-21, earning nods in eight weight classes simultaneously, and nine different weight classes at some point during the year.
 
• Seventy-two Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors have been earned by 34 Boilermaker wrestlers … has twice broken program highs in number of honorees, first with 10 in 2015-16 and then 13 in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
 
• The 2018-19 squad was ranked 18th on the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s Top-30 Scholar All-American Teams list … it was the first time since 2013 Purdue made the list and was the second highest ranked team among six Big Ten Conference programs among the top 30 … the team repeated its top-30 showing in 2019-20, ranking 28th, and was again 1-of-2 Big Ten teams.
 
• Five Boilermakers were named NWCA Division I Scholar All-American Award winners in 2018-19, setting a new standard for Purdue wrestling … Ben Thornton earned his third NWCA Division I Scholar All-American Award … Max Lyon joined the three-time honoree club in 2021, becoming the sixth in program history … during Ersland’s tenure, nine Boilermakers have been named NWCA Division I Scholar All-American Award winners a combined 15 times.
 
• Three of Ersland’s wrestlers have received the Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship, a $7,500 scholarship to be used towards graduate degree education: Andrew Hoselton (2016), Ben Thornton (2019) and Dylan Lydy (2020).
 
• Coached Kendric Maple to the 2017 U.S. Open Men’s Freestyle National Championships title at 61 kg … coached Griffin Parriott to the 2017 UWW Junior Freestyle National Championships title at 70 kg.
 
• Put two Boilermakers on the top of the podium at the 2019 Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, marking the first time in program history as Dylan Lydy won the 174-pound championship and Christian Brunner earned the 197-pound crown … coached 2015 Midlands 165-pound title winner Chad Welch to give Purdue its first Midlands champ since 1963 … coached the first two-time Big Ten Wrestler of the Week in Purdue history in Danny Sabatello (2014-15).
 
• At the 2017 Ken Kraft Midlands Championships a program-record seven wrestlers placed, crushing the previous high of four from 2008, 2006 and 1990 … as a team, the Boilermakers totaled 84 points to place seventh … the 84 points are the most they have ever scored at Midlands, topping 2008’s performance of 82.5 points … they combined to score 367 total match points, which was the fifth most among all teams.
 
• Matched the program’s best team finish at the 2019 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, placing fifth with 92.5 points, the most ever for the Boilermakers since they began attending the tournament in 2002 … had three individuals advance to the finals as Dylan Lydy won the 174-pound championship, while Devin Schroder and Christian Brunner were runner-up at 125 and 197, respectively … had five individuals place, matching the program’s best mark set in 2004.
 
• In 2015, Tony Ersland was one of nine head coaches that were in their first season as a Division I head coach and one of 13 coaches that were in their first year at the helm of their respective program … his eight NCAA qualifiers were the most among both groups … he was also the only coach among both groups to have his team in the final USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll.

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INTERVIEW WITH BREWTON PARKER COLLEGE’S COACH DEVANE DODGENS

Director of the Mens and Womens wrestling teams for Brewton Parker College, Coach Devane Dodgens is a young coach building a solid team with a system and methodology built on a strong foundation of learning from some of the best coaches in the sport and experience. He comes to us with coaching experience from 3 top 10 NAIA programs and is building a strong program in BPC. We are excited to have him over. Our interview with him is below.

After a competitive career with being a 2x AA you jumped right into the coaching, can you give us a breakdown of your experience after graduating and the lead up to BPC Director.

Coach D – My experience jumping straight into coaching was a fantastic one and set me up to be a great coach. I got to work under 3 college head coaches and did my time before taking a head coaching job. I worked under Jeff Bedard who is the Reinhardt men’s head coach ( they are 4x conference champs and qualified all 12 wrestlers to the national tournament the last 2 years, along with finishing in the top 15 of NAIA. Coach B taught me a lot about being confident in what I was teaching and getting to know the people that you are coaching better. Next, I got to learn under Jameel Bryant who is the head coach at Lindsey Wilson College. They are also a top 10 NAIA program and before Jameel got there he had help coach SEU to their best finish at nationals with 2 national champs. I learned that you can be fun and work hard at the same time under Bryant. I also learned everything about hand fighting and head outsides shots from him. Then I got to coach under the great Omi Acosta. (NAIA national champs and was voted coach of the year recently, funny side note I was his first All-American when I was actually good at wrestling !) Coach O reached you how to motivate someone to literally run through walls for you. He believes in setting the right structure and organization. The #LUCHA lifestyle isn’t just a phase, it’s a lifestyle and Omi truly believes in living it and passing it along to everyone he works with. Lastly, Nate Ethridge was someone I got to train and work under. I was a 2x state champ for him in high school. A lot like Coach Omi coach Ethridge cares more about just being a wrestler. He wants whoever he works with to be accountable and to grow in their personal lives.  The amount of time and technique he puts into each and every person he works with motivates me daily to continue to do better and do more.  taking my time and learning under these guys before I went to be a head coach is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Now going into what is I believe your 3rd year at BPC and 1st year as Director of both the mens at the women’s programs, what can you tell us about what to expect for the coming years?

Coach D – Our guys team is in great hands under Coach Kenny Mason and I fully am expecting them back in the top 20 this year in terms of wrestling. I also am expecting them to compete in the duals and finish in the top 6. I think with the young guys we have it is very doable. From there I would like coach Kenny to keep building and instilling the culture that he thinks is necessary. I expect us in the top 10 by 2022-2023 in terms of grades and wrestling. I expect us to be one of the three great college men’s teams in Georgia. i.e Us, Reinhardt, and Life !!

And for our Ladies program, the time to use the “we are a young team” as an excuse is over. I expect 3/4 of my team to be academic all Americans and I fully expect us to finish in the top 10 this year. We have all the tools here with coach Cruz, Emily, and Jonchuck working closely with both programs so there are no excuses. My hope is to place ladies at UWW, U23, and have some national champs/ all Americans this year. We already got off to a good start but we need to do better and keep growing on and off the mat. My hope is to build a dynasty where young ladies from all over (especially Florida) can come and get an education all the while competing with the nation’s best and growing as people.

Along with coaching are you also looking for a run on the senior circuit?

Coach D – I am actually even if it’s just competing. The biggest drawback that coaches like coach Sword from life have is that they have competed in the main event. That experience alone is so useful in coaching and I just have not been able to get that yet. But I do have plans to make a run when the circuit restarts at the end of this year.

We are looking forward to having you over, what can you tell us about what you have lined up for us October 10th?


Coach D – I have our men’s coach coming down along with some of the ladies and men.  We plan on showing a different viewpoint on hand fighting, drills, and of course getting live wrestling in. We are basically going to try to take these young men and women through a college-level warm-up, drill, and get some matches in, so they know what they are expecting when they get to the next level.

‍‍Coach, where can student athletes who are interested in Brewton Parker being their next step reach you guys or get more info?

Women’s Head Coach and Wrestling Director

Devane Dodgens
231-580-6458
ddodgens@bpc.edu

Men’s Head Coach

Kenny Mason
229-300-7608
kmason1@bpc.edu

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: LEHIGH UNIVERSITY’S PAT SANTORO

He played an integral role in the renaissance of the Lehigh wrestling program in the late 1990s. In his first year back, he led the Mountain Hawks to a school-record 23 dual wins, a second place EIWA finish, and was named EIWA Coach of the Year. In his 10th season, Bethlehem native Pat Santoro led the Mountain Hawks to the top of the EIWA, winning the program’s first EIWA title since 2006 and 35th overall. That accomplishment, plus a 12-3 dual season that resulted in a No. 8 final dual meet ranking, led to Santoro to earn NWCA National Coach of the Year honors. Santoro enters his 14th season looking to maintain Lehigh’s perch at the top of the EIWA, while molding the Mountain Hawks into a perennial top ten team and national championship contender. Santoro was hired in April, 2008 as just the eighth head coach in program history. He holds the title as the Lawrence White Head Coach of Wrestling at Lehigh.
A six-time EIWA Coach of the Year, Santoro has mentored two NCAA Champions at Lehigh, the second of which, Darian Cruz won the 125-pound title in 2017. He has led 20 individuals to a total of 31 EIWA titles, while guiding 17 men to 31 total All-American honors. Santoro finished the 2020-21 season with a dual meet record of 159-60-1 at Lehigh.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-21 was the most unusual of seasons. Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks through several preseason training starts and stoppages. COVID related cancellations shorted an already abbreviated season to seven duals, but the Mountain Hawks performed at their best at the end of February. Lehigh pulled away from the field to win its fourth consecutive EIWA team championship at Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pa. The Mountain Hawks crowned four individual champions, including heavyweight Jordan Wood who became a four-time EIWA champion, and qualified all 10 entrants for the NCAA Championships. For his efforts, Santoro captured his sixth EIWA Coach of the Year award.
Santoro led Lehigh to its third straight EIWA team title in 2019-20, capping a strong 12-3 dual meet season that saw Santoro reach a pair of personal milestones. Lehigh’s 19-14 victory at Cornell on Jan. 11 was Santoro’s 150th as the Mountain Hawks’ head coach. A week later, Lehigh defeated Navy 23-9 for the 200th head coaching victory of Santoro’s career.
The 2019-20 season saw Lehigh defeat a pair of top five opponents in duals, as the Mountain Hawks opened the dual season with a criteria win over No. 4 Oklahoma State and closed it with a victory over No. 5 Arizona State.
A tight battle was expected at the EIWA Championships at Stabler Arena, but the Mountain Hawks rose to the challenge. Lehigh had nine place winners, five finalists and three champions on the way to its third straight team title. All three individual champions were repeat titlists, as Jordan Kutler and Jordan Wood won their third consecutive conference titles and Josh Humphreys won his second straight. For his efforts, Santoro was named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fifth time.
Despite the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament in Minnesota, five Mountain Hawks were recognized as All-Americans by the NWCA: conference champions Humphreys, Kutler and Wood plus juniors Brandon Paetzell and Chris Weiler.
For the 2018-19 Mountain Hawks, it was a matter not of how they started, but how they finished. A rash of early-season injuries and a challenging schedule led to an 0-7 dual start, but the Mountain Hawks rebounded winning nine of their last 11 duals. Lehigh knocked-off EIWA rival Cornell during the dual season and then beat the Big Red again at the EIWA Championships to secure the program’s second straight EIWA team title and 36th overall.
Junior Jordan Kutler and sophomore Jordan Wood won their second consecutive EIWA titles, while freshman Josh Humphreys also won an individual championship. The Mountain Hawks qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh and continued their strong finish to the season, crowning three All-Americans, while having two others fall just one win short of All-America status as part of a 13th place finish. Kutler earned his second straight podium finish while Wood and senior Ryan Preisch earned All-America honors for the first time.
The Mountain Hawks also achieved off the mat, with Lehigh ranking 15th among Division I wrestling programs in terms of GPA of their postseason starting lineup and six of Lehigh’s NCAA qualifiers were named to the NWCA All-Academic Team.
Santoro led Lehigh to its 35th EIWA team title and first since 2006 with an impressive 164.5 point performance in 2018. The Mountain Hawks crowned five individual EIWA champions and had all 10 wrestlers earn berths for the NCAA Championships. After leading Lehigh to its first league title in 12 seasons, Santoro was named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fourth time. He also led Lehigh to a top 10 dual meet finish as the Mountain Hawks posted a 12-3 dual record that included a convincing win over then-No. 4 Michigan while also pushing No. 1 Penn State to the bring in a 23-19 loss in front of a Lehigh home dual record crowd of 9,896 at PPL Center in Allentown.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Santoro was named NWCA National Coach of the Year, for Lehigh’s performance during the dual season and EIWA Tournament. At the national tournament, Santoro’s Lehigh team produced three All-Americans, with Darian Cruz becoming a three-time All-American, Scott Parker earning his second medal and Jordan Kutler reaching the podium for the first time. Three other Lehigh wrestlers finished one win short of All-America honors.
Darian Cruz’s national title capped a successful campaign for the Mountain Hawks in 2016-17. Lehigh went 10-4 in duals and finished third at the Southern Scuffle during the regular season. The Mountain Hawks competed in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series for the second consecutive season, avenging a loss to Rutgers a year prior with a 23-10 win inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Darian Cruz and Scott Parker won individual EIWA titles at the first two weights and both wrestlers went on to earn All-America honors, with Parker finishing eighth at 133 in addition to Cruz’s national title. Three other wrestlers fell just short of All-America honors as Lehigh finished 12th at the NCAA Championships. Seven Mountain Hawks qualified for the NCAA Championships with all seven winning at least one match.
Santoro earned his third EIWA Coach of the Year award in 2015-16. He led the Mountain Hawks to a 13-3 dual record that included Lehigh’s first win over rival Cornell since 2011. Lehigh went 7-0 against EIWA opponents and represented the conference in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series. The Mountain Hawks finished second at the EIWA Championships with lineup bookends Darian Cruz and Max Wessell winning their first career titles. All 10 Mountain Hawks placed at the EIWA Tournament while nine wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Lehigh crowned three All-Americans at the NCAA Championships for the third straight year with Wessell and Randy Cruz earning their first career All-America medals, while Nathaniel Brown became a two-time All-American. The Mountain Hawks finished 14th as a team at Madison Square Garden.
In 2014-15, Santoro earned his 100th victory as Lehigh’s head coach when the Mountain Hawks upset eventual NCAA Champion Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the NWCA National Duals. The win over Ohio State was one of the highlights of a season that saw the Mountain Hawks go 14-6 in duals.
Lehigh’s lineup featured just two seniors but a strong core of sophomores and juniors continued to impress. Randy Cruz won his second EIWA title to help lead Lehigh to a second place conference finish. Nathaniel Brown reached the NCAA finals at 184 while Mason Beckman and Mitch Minotti earned All-America honors for the second straight year. As a team the Mountain Hawks finished 13th at the NCAA Championships.
Santoro led the 2013-14 Lehigh squad through the ups and downs that come with a young roster.
The Mountain Hawks’ regular lineup featured just one senior and no juniors but a young talented group managed to win ten duals. Lehigh enjoyed a strong EIWA tournament, with Mason Beckman winning an individual title to lead the Mountain Hawks to a second place finish. The young Mountain Hawks soared at the NCAA Championships with freshmen Darian Cruz and Mitch Minotti joining Beckman in earning All-America honors, giving Lehigh at least three All-Americans for the third time in four years. Cruz and Minotti were Lehigh’s first freshmen All-Americans since 2003 with Cruz also becoming Lehigh’s first true freshman All-American in 34 years.
In 2012-13, Santoro worked with a young team that battled through injuries and a string of bad luck and helped guide the Mountain Hawks to ten dual meet wins. Three individuals won individual EIWA titles including Randy Cruz, who became Lehigh’s first true freshman EIWA champion since 1980. Under Santoro’s guidance Robert Hamlin became Lehigh’s 16th three-time All-American and reached the NCAA finals for the second time in his career.
Under Santoro’s direction, Lehigh continued to make strides in 2011-12. The Mountain Hawks finished eighth at the NCAA Championships for the second straight year and once again had two finalists in Zack Rey and Brandon Hatchett. Lehigh crowned four All-Americans, its most since having five in 2004. At the EIWA Championships, Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks within a mere 2.5 points of the team title. Hamlin won his second straight EIWA title, while Hatchett won his first. Shane Welsh was the surprise of the tournament, capturing the title at 149 from the No. 6 seed. Lehigh’s three championships were its most since 2006. For his efforts, Santoro was voted EIWA Coach of the Year for the second time.
Santoro’s third season in Bethlehem proved to be his best to date on the national level. Lehigh returned to the top ten at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006 with an eighth place finish. The Mountain Hawks crowned three All-Americans for the first time in five years and placed two wrestlers in the NCAA finals for the first time since 2003. Rey became Santoro’s first national champion and the 27th in Lehigh history with his triumph in Philadelphia. Lehigh enjoyed another strong dual meet season, going 15-6 and finishing eighth in the national rankings. The Mountain Hawks took second at the EIWA Championships with Hamlin winning an individual title, a precursor to his second place NCAA finish.
In 2009-10, Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks to a 16-3-1 dual record and a top-ten national dual meet ranking for most of the season. Lehigh had a record six place-winners at the Midlands Championships and reached the finals at the Virginia Duals for the second straight season. In March, Santoro guided Rey to an EIWA title and All-America honors with a third place finish at the NCAA Championships, the program’s first All-American in four years.
Santoro produced an immediate turnaround in his first season back in Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks won their first 15 duals to start the season, including victories over the likes of Maryland, Michigan, Penn State and Lehigh’s first-ever dual win over Oklahoma State. The team’s 23-1 dual mark surpassed the school record for dual wins in a season. Santoro guided Seth Ciasulli and David Craig to individual EIWA Championships, while the Mountain Hawks finished second in the conference and qualified seven wrestlers for the NCAA Championships.
Before returning to Lehigh, Santoro spent the previous five years as the head coach at the University of Maryland where he helped resurrect the Terrapins program, which in 2008 captured its first ACC title in 35 years; a feat which earned Santoro ACC Coach of the Year honors. That year, the Terps went 16-4 and entered the national rankings for the first time since 1993, climbing as high as No. 21. Under Santoro’s guidance, Maryland crowned its first All-American since 1997 en route to a top-25 team finish at the NCAA Championships. Santoro posted a 48-41-1 record in five seasons at College Park, including an impressive 33-9 dual mark his last two seasons.
Prior to his stint at Maryland Santoro served as an assistant at Lehigh for nine years, including eight seasons as the top assistant on Greg Strobel’s staff. During his initial tenure, Santoro was part of some of the most successful teams in school history. In 2003, Santoro was named the national Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, after helping guide the Brown and White to its third EIWA title in four years, and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, at the time the program’s best finish in 24 years.
Before coming to Lehigh, Santoro spent the 1993-94 season as an assistant coach at Duquesne and the two seasons prior to that as a graduate assistant at Penn State.
Regarded throughout the community as one of the sport’s top teachers and recruiters, Santoro has enjoyed success at every level of wrestling, both as a coach and a competitor. After wrestling for Bethlehem Catholic High School and taking a post-graduate year at Blair Academy, Santoro wrestled collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became the Panthers’ only four-time All-America while capturing national titles in 1988 and 1989 at 142 pounds. A three-time Eastern Wrestling League Champion, he was the recipient of Pittsburgh’s Golden Panther Award in 1989, recognizing the outstanding athlete of the year.
On the international scene, Santoro enjoyed a stellar career which spanned nearly a decade. He was a four time member of the U.S. National Team between 1995 and 1999 and served as an alternate for the 1996 Olympic Team and the 1999 World Team. Santoro placed fourth at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, third at the 1992 Olympic Trials and was runner-up in the 1992 U.S. Open Freestyle Championships.
Santoro earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pittsburgh in 1992. In addition to his Bethlehem roots and previous coaching stint at Lehigh, Santoro’s father, uncle and brother all wrestled for the Brown and White.
Santoro and his wife Julie have a daughter, Leah and a son, Mack.

Career Milestones
2021……. Led Lehigh to fourth straight EIWA title
…………… Named EIWA Coach of the Year for the sixth time
2020……. Named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fifth time
…………… Led Lehigh to third consecutive EIWA title
2019……. Led Lehigh to back-to-back EIWA team titles
2018……. Guided Lehigh to first EIWA title in 12 years
…………… EIWA Coach of the Year
…………… NWCA National Coach of the Year
2017……. Coached second NCAA Champion (Darian Cruz)
2016……. EIWA Coach of the Year
2012……. EIWA Coach of the Year
2011……. Coached first NCAA Champion (Zack Rey)
2009……. EIWA Coach of the Year
…………… Led Lehigh to school single-season record 23 dual wins
2008……. ACC Coach of the Year
…………… Guided Maryland to first ACC title in 35 years
2007……. Led Maryland to school record-tying 17 dual wins
2003……. NWCA National Assistant Coach of the Year
1995-03… Coached four EIWA Championship teams and four
…………… NCAA top ten teams as Lehigh assistant coach
1993-94… Duquesne assistant coach
1991-93… Penn State assistant coach
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COACH SPOTLIGHT: UNIVERISTY OF MICHIGAN’S SEAN BORMET

As found on the University of Michigan’s website, below is head coach Sean Bormet’s bio. Read about this coach’s career:

“Sean Bormet is in his third season as head coach of the University of Michigan wrestling program in 2020-2021. He was named the 10th head coach in the history of the Michigan wrestling program on March 27, 2018, after spending seven years as the Wolverines’ top assistant, including four as associate head coach.

In Bormet’s first season at the helm, the Wolverines posted a 13-1 dual-meet record, including an 8-1 mark in Big Ten duals, to rank fourth in the final NWCA Coaches poll and claimed fifth place at the NCAA Championships behind All-Americans Stevan Micic (133 pounds), Alec Pantaleo (157) and Myles Amine (174). He was named the 2018-19 Amateur Wrestling News Rookie Coach of the Year.

Since returning to his alma mater, Bormet has helped mentor 18 different Wolverine All-Americans, with Michigan earning 23 All-America citations — from 14 different wrestlers — over the last six seasons. He was in Kellen Russell’s corner when Russell captured his second NCAA title and fourth Big Ten title to finish a stellar collegiate career in 2012. The Wolverines have earned top-10 team finishes at each of the last four NCAA Championships, including a fourth-place finish in 2018 and a fifth-place showing in 2019.

A skilled recruiter, Bormet has contributed to six top-10 recruiting classes, including the nation’s consensus No. 1 class in 2013, and will bring another heralded class to Ann Arbor next fall.

Bormet is a three-time winner of the Terry McCann Award as the USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach of the Year (2006, ’08, ’10) and serves on USA Wrestling’s Executive Coaches Council. He was a member of the coaching staff for three U.S. World Championship Teams (2006, ’09, ’10) as well as the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Teams and 2010 World Cup Team. Among his most decorated post-collegiate wrestlers are 2008 Olympian Andy Hrovat (84 kg), 2009 World silver medalist and 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert (84kg) and 2006 World bronze medalist Donny Pritzlaff (74kg).

Bormet was also named the 2004 USA Wrestling Developmental Coach of the Year for his coaching achievements with age-group wrestlers and programs. He coached the Illinois Junior Freestyle Team to four dual national titles (2006, ’07, ’08, ’10) and two national freestyle titles (2007, ’10). He has coached numerous age-group national champions and All-Americans as a coach for the Illinois Junior and Cadet freestyle national teams.

As the owner and founder of the Overtime School of Wrestling in Naperville, Ill., Bormet molded the training center into the nation’s premiere wrestling club, producing numerous champions and All-Americans at all age levels since its opening in 2001. Alumni of the Overtime School of Wrestling include World medalists, Olympic and World team members, NCAA champions and All-Americans, USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national champions and more than 150 Illinois and Indiana state champions.

Prior to founding the Overtime School of Wrestling, Bormet served as an assistant coach at Wisconsin (1995-99) and Michigan (1999-2000). He worked with two-time NCAA champion Donny Pritzlaff and three-time All-American Eric Jetton during his tenure at Wisconsin and All-Americans Otto Olson, Damion Logan and Andy Hrovat while at Michigan.

As a Wolverine student-athlete (1991-94), Bormet was a two-time NCAA All-American at 158 pounds, placing second as a senior (1994) and third as a junior (1993). He garnered the prestigious Gorriaran Award at the 1993 event, registering three falls in a combined 8:58. He captured back-to-back Big Ten 158-pound titles (1993, ’94) and won the prestigious Midlands at 158 pounds in 1993.

Bormet posted a 125-21 career record, including a 33-2 mark as a senior, to rank 13th among Michigan’s all-time winningest wrestlers. He accumulated 44 career falls, leading the team with 15 during his junior season and 14 as a senior, to list fourth on the program’s all-time pins list. A two-time team captain, Bormet was twice named the Wolverines’ Cliff Keen Award winner as the team’s most outstanding wrestler.

In addition to his collegiate success, Bormet also excelled in freestyle wrestling, placing second at 76kg at the 1999 U.S. Senior National and third at 74kg in 1996. He took third place at the 1996 Olympic Team Trials and 1999 World Team Trials. While at Michigan, Bormet competed in the 1991 Espoir World Championships after claiming the Espoir national championship at 74kg. He participated in several international tours, claiming gold medals in Italy (1993), Greece (1996), Montreal (1997) and Poland (1998, 2000).

A native of Frankfort, Ill., Bormet graduated from Michigan in 1994 with a degree in sport management. He and his wife, Teri, have a daughter, Zoe, and live in Ann Arbor.”

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: RUTGERS UNIVERSITY’S SCOTT GOODALE

As found on Rutgers University website, below is Scoot Goodale’s bio. Learn about this coach’s career:

The winningest coach in program history with 183 career victories “On the Banks”, head coach Scott Goodale has made Rutgers wrestling into one of the top teams in the country since he took over the program on July 31, 2007.

With the help of associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff, assistant coach Anthony Ashnault, director of operations Joe Pollard and volunteer assistant coach Kyle Kiss, the Scarlet Knights have produced two individual national champions, five individual conference titles, 15 All-Americans in the past eight seasons, multiple All-Americans at the last five NCAA Championships, and since 2009, have earned two top 10 finishes and nine top 25 finishes in the NWCA Division I Coaches Poll.

Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 Pandemic, wrestling managed another historical season in 2021. Rutgers closed the season with three All-Americans in the same year for the first time in program history, as Sebastian Rivera (fourth), John Poznanski (fourth) and Jackson Turley (eighth) all earned All-America honors at the 2021 NCAA Championships in St. Louis. Along with two-time NCAA qualifiers Michael VanBrill (149) and Billy Janzer (197), RU produced 13 victories at nationals en route to a 13th-place finish with 37.5 team points.

Under Goodale’s watch, RU has two individual national titles (Ashnault & Nick Suriano in 2019), three national finalists, 15 All-Americans, five conference champions (four Big Ten, one EIWA), 80 NCAA Championship bids, 32 Big Ten Conference Championships placewinners and 42 placewinners at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships. The program has tallied an impressive 183-79-1 dual meet record during his 14 years “On the Banks.”

 The success of Goodale’s teams has resulted in one of the top home environments in the sport. Competing at the RAC, the Scarlet Knights have finished within the top five in national attendance over the past five seasons, which includes a 4,292 average in 2019-20 – good for fourth nationally. RU has also secured 3,000-plus season ticket holders over the past two campaigns and recently hosted a successful Big Ten Championships at the end of the 2019-20 season, which drew 20,000 fans to the RAC over a two-day period.

The wrestling program also trains at one of the top practice facilities in the country – the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center. Opened in 2019, the state-of-the-art facility lives right next to the RAC and features three regulation practice mats, a 30-person team locker room and offices for coaches and support staff.

The Jackson, N.J., native took over the Rutgers program following an impressive seven-year stint as head coach at his alma mater, Jackson Memorial High School. In seven seasons, Goodale compiled an overall record of 155-16, leading his squad to the top ranking in the state in 2006 and 2007.

The legendary Jersey high school wrestling coach was inducted into the South Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame on Nov. 7, 2009.

Goodale was named the New Jersey State Coach of the Year three times, while also earning District 21 and Region VI Coach of the Year accolades three times during his tenure with the Jaguars. Goodale coached four New Jersey State Champions and five New Jersey State runner-ups, along with 16 additional state placewinners. In total, he has coached a total of 41 District 21 Champions and 10 Region VI Champions. Goodale led his teams to two Group IV State Championships, as well as four Central Jersey Group IV Sectional titles. Each season Goodale spent with Jackson Memorial, the Jaguars were crowned District 21 Team Champions, as well as winning four Class A-South Shore Conference titles. During the 2005-06 season, the Jaguars finished ranked No. 10 in the country. The following year, Goodale and the Jaguars improved that performance, finishing the year ranked seventh nationally. In every year Goodale was at Jackson Memorial, he led his team to a top-10 finish in the New Jersey wrestling polls.

Prior to being named head coach at Jackson Memorial, Goodale served as a top assistant for the wrestling program, while also working as the offensive coordinator for the football team. During his time with the Jaguars football squad, he was a part of three state championship teams.

On a national level, he spent 12 years as the Junior and Cadet State Team Coach for national wrestling tournaments held in Fargo, N.D. Following the 2005-06 season, he served as the head coach for Team New Jersey at the Junior National Duals.

Goodale wrestled for Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, earning his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education in 1995. He then went to New Jersey City University where he earned a certification in Special Education in 1997. As a collegiate wrestler, Goodale made three trips to the NCAA Championships, as well as placing second at the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Tournament twice in his career. During his time with the Bald Eagles, the team was ranked as high as ninth in the country. Goodale finished with 99 wins at Lock Haven.

Goodale and his wife Lisa are the parents of Shelby and Zach, and reside in Toms River. Shelby is currently on the Rutgers University dance team, while Zach is set to begin his first collegiate season for the Scarlet Knights’ football team.

All-Americans under Goodale

Year Wrestler (Place) Weight
2021 John Poznanski (4th) 184
Sebastian Rivera (4th) 141
Jackson Turley (8th) 174
2020 Nicolas Aguilar (HM) 125*
Sammy Alvarez (Second Team) 133*
2019 Nick Suriano (1st) 133
Anthony Ashnault (1st) 149
2018 Nick Suriano (2nd) 125
Scott DelVecchio (6th) 133
2017 Anthony Ashnault (6th) 141
Ken Theobold (7th) 149
2016 Anthony Ashnault (4th) 141
Anthony Perrotti (8th) 165
2015 Anthony Ashnault (8th) 141
2014 Anthony Perrotti (8th) 157

* All-America laurels awarded by the NWCA due to cancellation of 2020 NCAA Championships

Past Accomplishments

Though the 2020 NCAA Championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Rutgers still secured another banner season in 2019-20. RU finished with a winning dual record for the 13th consecutive season under Goodale, produced five national qualifiers, secured two NWCA All-Americans (Aguilar & Alvarez) and hosted the 2020 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at the RAC.

The 2018-19 campaign was the best in the program’s 89-year history, as Rutgers recorded its first Top 10 finish at the NCAA Championships with its ninth-place result on March 23, 2019 in Pittsburgh. The performance was highlighted by individual national titles for Nick Suriano (133 pounds) and Anthony Ashnault (149), as Goodale was named NCAA Tournament Coach of the Year.

 Ashnault and Suriano both flourished under Goodale’s guidance, as the duo also claimed individual conference titles at the 2019 Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis. Ashnault finished his historic career as the program’s all-time wins leader with 123 victories and was a 2019 Hodge Trophy finalist with an unblemished 32-0 record. In his second season “On the Banks”, Suriano wrestled to a 29-3 record and defeated the No. 1 seed (Daton Fix, Oklahoma State) and the No. 2 seed (Stevan Micic, Michigan) en route to the 133-pound national title.

 In dual action, Rutgers finished 2018-19 with a 12-6 mark and a 5-4 record within the Big Ten – the third winning league record since it joined the conference in 2014-15. The overall dual mark included three victories over ranked foes – No. 10 Wisconsin, No. 19 Princeton and No. 20 Purdue.The 2017-18 season was another historic one under Goodale, as Rutgers produced a then-best 11th-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships in Cleveland. Six Scarlet Knights combined for 19 victories and 42.5 team points, which included the program’s first national finalist in Suriano (125), as well as a sixth-place finisher in Scott DelVecchio (133).

The program earned multiple All-Americans for the third consecutive year in 2017-18. During that dual campaign, RU collected eight wins, including victories over four ranked foes, and added its best finish at the Midlands Championships in its history with its second-place result. Rutgers finished 2017-18 ranked 19th in the final coaches’ poll, while six Scarlet Knights closed out the season ranked in their respective weight classes by FloWrestling.

During the 2016-17 season, Anthony Ashnault (141) became the first three time All-American in program history when he finished sixth at the 2017 national championships in St. Louis. Ken Theobold also appeared on the podium at 149 in 2017, giving the program back-to-back seasons with two or more All-Americans for the first time ever.

 In 2014, the program earned its first All-American since 2002, as 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti finished eighth at NCAAs. Perrotti closed his career on the national podium at 165 pounds in 2016 in front of a local crowd at MSG, becoming the third two-time All-American in RU history.

The Scarlet Knights finished the 2016-17 dual campaign with a 12-5 record, which included an undefeated home slate (6-0) and 6-3 mark in Big Ten Conference action. The six conference wins were the most since Rutgers joined the league in 2014, while RU concluded its dual season ranked within the top-25 for the sixth time during Goodale’s tenure.

Rutgers also hosted the historic “Battle at the Birthplace” this past season, in which it defeated rival Princeton, 19-16, in front of 16,178 fans at High Point Solutions Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016. The event drew the second-highest crowd in NCAA dual history.  

 The 2015-16 season was undeniably the most successful in Rutgers wrestling history. The Scarlet Knights sent all 10 weight classes to the NCAA Championships for the first time and finished 15th in the nation. Ashnault won the Big Ten title at 141 pounds to become Rutgers’ first ever Big Ten champ, as the squad wrestled to a fifth-place finish at the 2016 Big Ten Championships.

RU (16-5) closed the dual season ranked No. 10 in the final USA Today/ NWCA Coaches Poll, defeating seven ranked opponents and three in the top-10, culminating with an 18-15 win over No. 7 Lehigh in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series.

Rutgers’ national prominence soared to new heights in 2014-15 in its first season in the Big Ten Conference. The Scarlet Knights tallied a new single-season attendance mark and posted the sixth-best attendance total (18,877) and average (2,697) in the nation, according to a report released by Roby Publishing.

RU ended its inaugural Big Ten Conference campaign No. 21 in the nation in the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll after a 14-7 campaign that featured a pair of ranked wins and five NCAA Championships selections.

Goodale had his first grappler breakthrough on the national scene in 2013-14, as 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti became the program’s first All-American wrestler since 2002 by placing eighth at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City. Perrotti made NCAA Championships history on his consolation run, recording the second-fastest win by fall all-time at the national tournament with a 10-second pin over Oregon State’s Roger Pena. 

After dropping his first match of the tournament, Perrotti rattled off four consecutive victories, including three in a row against top-15 opponents.

In RU’s (11-5, 7-2) final season in the EIWA before joining the Big Ten Conference, the squad finished third with 91 points at the 2014 EIWA Championships in Philadelphia. Three Scarlet Knights received automatic bids to nationals, while an additional at-large selection gave Goodale at least four NCAA qualifiers in five of his first seven seasons “On the Banks.”

The 2012-13 campaign was a successful one for Goodale and Co., as the Scarlet Knights returned to the national spotlight by ending the year ranked No. 25 in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll courtesy of a 16-4 dual record. RU saw eight grapplers finish in the top eight at the EIWA Championships and sent seven wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

The 2011-12 season was marked by the NCAA success of senior Billy Ashnault, who finished one win shy of All-America status at 141 pounds. In total, five Scarlet Knights represented RU at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. Rutgers additionally played host to one of four regional sites of the 2012 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals, continuing to boost the Scarlet Knight grapplers’ national prominence.

In 2010-11, RU reached new heights as a program, finishing the year as a top-10 program, ranking ninth in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll after posting a school-record 21 victories against only two defeats. Rutgers continued its strong season at the 107th EIWA Championships where it placed third as a team, tying the best finish ever for the program. Additionally, the Scarlet Knights saw nine wrestlers place at the EIWA Championships, including Scott Winston who took home the 165-pound bracket crown to become the first RU wrestler to capture an EIWA championship since Tom Tanis in 2001.  By virtue of the strong EIWA and regular season, RU qualifed a school-record tying eight individuals for the NCAA Championship.

Rutgers finished at No. 22 in the final 2009-10 NWCA/USA Today Division I Team Coaches Poll after posting a 19-5-1 record. Seven Scarlet Knights earned NCAA bids. The No. 22 ranking was the highest in school history at that point. The Goodale-led squad put together a 15-match unbeaten streak from early December to late February which was the longest streak in school history.

In 2008-09, Rutgers broke the then-school record for victories in a single season with a 20-7 mark in dual action. Three Scarlet Knights earned NCAA Championships bids, which at the time was the most for RU since 2004.

The Scarlet Knights tallied an 11-7 overall record and 5-3 mark in Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) action in 2007-08. Two wrestlers reached the NCAA Championships. Goodale maximized his strong high school coaching background and brought in a recruiting class ranked nationally by W.I.N. Magazine (No. 3) and InterMat (No. 4).

Goodale’s first recruiting class included InterMat’s No. 2 overall senior recruit in Scott Winston, InterMat’s 17th-best recruit in Trevor Melde and USA Wrestling’s 19th-best 171-pound wrestler in Dan Rinaldi. Goodale was a three-time New Jersey “Coach of the Year” at Jackson Memorial High School in Jackson, N.J., before becoming the sixth coach in Rutgers wrestling history.

SCOTT GOODALE YEAR-BY-YEAR COACHING RECORD

Season School Record % Conference Record %
2007-08 Rutgers 11-7 .611 5-3 (EIWA) .625
2008-09 Rutgers 20-7 .741 7-1 (EIWA) .875
2009-10 Rutgers 19-5-1 .780 6-2 (EIWA) .750
2010-11 Rutgers 21-2 .913 8-1 (EIWA) .888
2011-12 Rutgers 13-8 .619 5-1 (EIWA) .833
2012-13 Rutgers 16-4 .800 6-1 (EIWA) .857
2013-14 Rutgers 11-5 .688 7-2 (EIWA) .777
2014-15 Rutgers 14-7 .667 2-7 (Big Ten) .222
2015-16 Rutgers 16-5 .762 5-4 (Big Ten) .555
2016-17 Rutgers 12-5 .666 6-3 (Big Ten) .666
2017-18 Rutgers 8-7 .533 3-6 (Big Ten) .333
2018-19 Rutgers 12-6 .666 5-4 (Big Ten) .555
2019-20 Rutgers 10-7 .588 4-5 (Big Ten) .444
2020-21 Rutgers 0-4 .000 0-4 (Big Ten) .000
Career Record 183-79-1 .697 69-43 .616
EIWA Record (Seven Seasons) 44-11 .800
Big Ten Record (Seven Seasons) 25-33 .431”

 

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COACH SPOTLIGHT: PENN STATE UNIVERSITY’S CAEL SANDERSON

As found on Penn State University’s website, below is Cael Sanderson’s bio. Learn about this coach’s career:

On April 17, 2009, Penn State named national wrestling legend Cael Sanderson as its 12th head wrestling coach and immediately the nation looked East. Since that time, the wrestling landscape across the country has changed as Penn State has claimed eight NCAA championships and numerous Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, all while crowning numerous individual champions and maintaining the highest of academic standards.

A career begun in the Midwest…

At just 29 years old, Sanderson came to Penn State after three very productive years as the head coach at his alma mater, Iowa State.  Sanderson’s teams did not finish any lower than fifth at the NCAA Championships and  he never had a wrestler not qualify for nationals, getting 30-of-30 grapplers through to the championship tournament. 

After graduating from ISU in 2002, Sanderson spent 2003 and 2004 as a special assistant in the athletic department at Iowa State before joining the ISU coaching staff as an assistant coach in 2004-05. He was promoted to the assistant head coach position the next year and then became the Cyclones’ head coach for the 2006-07 season.

In 2007, during Sanderson’s rookie campaign, he led ISU to a 13-3 dual meet record and the first of three-straight Big 12 Championships. An outstanding NCAA runner-up finish in Detroit capped off a wildly successful year as the Cyclones crowned one National Champion and Sanderson was honored as Big 12 Coach of the Year, National Rookie Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year. The next year, Sanderson led ISU to a 16-4 dual meet mark, another Big 12 title and a fifth place finish at nationals. Iowa State’s seven All-Americans in 2008 were the most at the school since 1993.

In 2009, Sanderson’s team went 15-3 in duals, won its third-straight Big 12 title and took third place at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis (just 12 points out of first place). The Cyclones also crowned another National Champion. In three years at Iowa State, Sanderson’s teams went 44-10, won three conference crowns, qualified all 30 wrestlers for nationals, earned 15 All-American awards and two individual national titles.

A move East and a rapid ascent…

His first season at Penn State was solid. Sanderson led Penn State to a 13-6-1 dual meet record, much improved over the prior year’s 8-12-2 mark. After a year outside the top 10, Sanderson led the Lions back to their place among the nation’s elite with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA?Championships and a No. 10 final dual meet ranking from the NWCA Coaches. Sanderson picked up three more All-Americans (including a national finalist) and a Big Ten Champion in younger brother, Cyler Sanderson.

In 2010-11, Sanderson reached the pinnacle of the collegiate coaching mountain by guiding Penn State through a stunning season filled with records, championships and memories that thrilled the Penn State faithful. Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to their first-ever Southern Scuffle Co-Championship and first Virginia Duals Championship since 1991. While guiding Penn State to a 6-1-1 conference mark, Sanderson equaled the highest Big Ten dual meet wins in Penn State history (1998). He led Penn State to the school’s first ever Big Ten Championship and was named 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year. He became the first coach in NCAA history to be named both the Big Ten and Big 12 Coach of the Year. Saving the best for last, he led the Nittany Lions to the 2011 NCAA National Championship in Philadelphia, Penn State’s first since 1953 and Sanderson’s first as a collegiate head coach. 

During the 2011-12 season, the nation watched as Sanderson led Penn State to a 13-1 dual mark, including a school record 7-1 Big Ten dual record to earn a share of the 2012 Big Ten dual meet championship. Sanderson then made it two in a row by leading Penn State to the 2012 Big Ten Championship at Purdue. He was named 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year, earning the honor for the second-straight season. Two weeks later, Sanderson led Penn State to a second-straight NCAA crown, helping Penn State to become the fifth team in NCAA history to win back-to-back titles.  He was named NWCA National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career at the conclusion of the championships in Des Moines.

In 2012-13, Penn State posted an identical 13-1 mark, 7-1 Big Ten dual record and won its third-straight Big Ten Championship in Illinois in March. Sanderson earned his third-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor (co) in the process. Two weeks after that, Sanderson guided Penn State to a thrilling third-straight NCAA crown, helping Penn State to become just the third team in NCAA history to win three-straight team titles. At the tournament’s end, he was named NWCA National Coach of the Year.

In 2013-14, Penn State went 15-1 overall and won a share of the Big Ten dual meet title with a 7-1 record. The Nittany Lions won their fourth-straight Big Ten Championship in Madison, Wisconsin, helping Sanderson win his fourth-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. Two weekends later, the Nittany Lions won their fourth-straight NCAA title, becoming the third team in NCAA history to win four-straight NCAA titles.

In 2014-15, Sanderson led Penn State to an 11-4 dual meet record, a fifth-straight Southern Scuffle title, garnering five All-Americans and another individual National Champion at the NCAA Championships.

In 2015-16, he added a sixth-straight Southern Scuffle championships, a third Big Ten dual meet title (co-) and the 2016 NWCA National Dual Series championship. He led Penn State to its fifth Big Ten Championship in six years in Iowa City and followed that up with his fifth NCAA National Championship in six years in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

In 2016-17, Sanderson led Penn State to its second-straight NCAA title and sixth in seven years.  Penn State posted a perfect 14-0 dual meet record, won the 2017 Big Ten regular season (dual meet) title and the NWCA Dual Championship Series crown for the second-straight season. Sanderson’s team posted a gaudy 35-6 record at NCAAs and won five-straight individual championships to close out the national finals.

In 2017-18, Sanderson led Penn State to its seventh NCAA title in eight years and third- straight. Penn State posted a perfect 14-0 dual meet record and won the Big Ten regular season (dual meet) title yet again. Sanderson’s team posted a superb 39-9 record at NCAAs. Penn State ended the season riding a 45-dual win streak and set an NCAA record for attendance at an indoor dual meet with 15,998 in the BJC for a win over Iowa.

In 2018-19, Sanderson closed  out a decade as Penn State’s mentor by leading Penn State to its eighth NCAA title in nine years and fourth-straight for the second time in his first ten years as head coach.  Penn State posted a perfect 14-0 dual meet record for the fourth-straight year, won the Big Ten regular season (dual meet) and Big Ten tournament championship. Sanderson’s team posted a 35-11 record at NCAAs and had the team title clinched before the finals began Saturday night.  Penn State ended the season riding a 59-dual win streak. Sanderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and InterMat National Coach of the Year.

In 2019-20, the Lion mentor led the team to a 12-2 overall record and a near-perfect 8-1 Big Ten dual meet mark.  Penn State dropped two duals by a total of three points.  Penn State crowned two more Big Ten Champions in true freshman Aaron Brooks and senior Mark Hall.  Brooks was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Nittany Lions advanced seven wrestlers to the 2020 NCAA Championships before the NCAA cancelled the event in reaction to the COVID-19 virus’ outbreak. The NWCA named the top eight seeds at each weight First  Team All-Americans after the tournament was cancelled, giving Sanderson five more All-Americans.

In 11 years as Penn State’s coach, Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to eight Southern Scuffle titles, six B1G dual meet titles, six Big Ten Championships, eight NCAA Championships, collected 58 All-Americans, 23 National Champions, including an NCAA record-tying five in 2017, four Gorriaran winners, five NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestlers, one CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year, one NCAA Elite 89 winner, one NCAA Top 10 Award winner and five Hodge Trophy winners. Sanderson, who has coached 78 total All-Americans and 25 total National Champions (including his three years at Iowa State), grabbed his 100th win as Penn State’s head coach in its 36-6 victory over Stanford in Rec Hall on 11/13/16.

A coaching career after the most storied collegiate wrestling career ever…

To this day, Sanderson is considered the most dominant collegiate competitor in NCAA history. In four years, Sanderson never lost. From 1999-2002, Sanderson posted a 159-0 career record (going 39-0, 40-0, 40-0 and 40-0); won four individual National Championships; won four Most Outstanding Wrestler awards at the NCAA Championships (the only wrestler in NCAA history to do so); became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Outstanding Wrestler honor and won three Dan Hodge Trophies as the nation’s best collegiate wrestler (also a collegiate first). He wrestled his first three years at 184 and then moved to 197 as a senior.

The four-time All-American’s four-year streak of perfection was called the No. 2 most outstanding achievement in collegiate sports history by Sports Illustrated. The NCAA called his final win (in the 2002 NCAA 197-pound championship) one of the NCAA’s “25 Defining Moments” for its Centennial celebration. His wrestling career culminated in 2004 when the Heber City, Utah, native won the 84 kg Olympic Gold Medal in Athens, Greece.

THE SANDERSON FILE

Full Name:    Cael Norman Sanderson

Birthday:     June 20, 1979

Birthplace:    Provo, Utah

Hometown:    Heber City, Utah

Alma Mater:    Iowa State ‘02

Spouse: Kelly

Children:    Tate, Teag

COACHING HONORS

*    2007 NWCA Coach of the Year

*    2007 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year

*    2007 Amateur Wrestling News Rookie Coach of the Year

*    2007 RevWrestling.com Coach of the Year

*    2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year

*    2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year

*    2012 InterMat National Coach of the Year

*    2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year (co)

*    2013 NWCA Coach of the Year

*    2013 W.I.N. Magazine Coach of the Year.

*    2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year

*    2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year

*    2016 InterMat National Coach of the Year

*    2017 InterMat National Coach of the Year

*    2018 InterMat National Coach of the Year

*    2019 Big Ten Coach of the Year

*    2019 InterMat National Coach of the Year

*    Only person in NCAA history to earn both  Big Ten and Big 12 Coach of the Year honors

*    Coached 25 National Champions (23 in 11 years at PSU)

*    78 All-Americans in just 14 years (63 in 11 years at PSU)

*    123 of 140 of his wrestlers qualified for NCAAs

*    Coached 30 Big Ten Champions in 11 years in the conference.

AS A WRESTLER…

*    The only wrestler in NCAA history to never lose a bout over four years

*    Four-time NCAA National Champion

*    Four-time NCAA Most Outstanding Wrestler

*    2004 Olympic Gold Medalist

*    159-0 as collegiate wrestler

*    Four-time Big 12 Champion

*    Sports Illustrated called unbeaten streak #2 most outstanding achievement in collegiate history

*    Three-time Hodge Trophy winner

*    Final NCAA win named one of 25 Defining Moments by NCAA

*    ESPY Award for Best Male Collegiate Athlete

*    ESPN SportsCentury special on his career

*    One-time appearance on Wheaties cereal box”

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SPOTLIGHT ON NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY COACH PAT POPOLIZIO

By DANIEL SONNINSHINE

As found on North Carolina State University’s website,  below is Pat Popolizio’s bio. Learn about this coach’s career:

“The 2020-21 wrestling season marks Pat Popolizio’s ninth at the helm of the NC State wrestling program, as he was named head wrestling coach of the Wolfpack on April 10, 2012.

 In the Spring of 2018, Popolizio was awarded a contract extension through June of 2025. 

Popolizio was named the 2018 Dan Gable co-NCAA Coach of the Year and the 2016 National Coach of the Year by FloWrestling. He has also been a finalist for the NWCA Division I National Coach of the Year each of the last three years in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He has twice been named ACC Coach of the Year, in 2018 and again in 2020.

 In eight seasons under Popolizio, NC State Wrestling has had:

  • 3 National Champions
  • 5 NCAA Finalists
  • 18 All-Americans
  • 15 ACC Champions
  • 5 ACC Wrestlers of the Year
  • 2 ACC Rookies of the Year
  • 3 ACC Scholar-Athletes of the Year

He has led NC State to a school record six straight top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships. Over the last six NCAA Championships, NC State has finished 19th in 2014, 16th in 2015, 11th in 2016, 17th in 2017, 4th in 2018 (earning its first-ever team trophy), and 17th in 2019 (2020 was canceled due to COVID-19).

NC State has earned 18 All-America honors in the last seven years, a new school record for most in a seven-year span all-time. In 2018, NC State set a school-best with four All-Americans, including an all-time ACC-best two NCAA finalists, and betterd that mark in 2020 with six All-Americans named by the NWCA.

In his eight seasons overall, Popolizio has had 57 NCAA qualifiers, highlighted by a school record 10 in 2017. In the last five seasons, NC State has qualified 44 of its 50 starters.

Popolizio has won both a trio of ACC Championships (2016, 2019 and 2020) and three ACC Regular season titles (2018, 2019 and 2020). The Wolfpack went back-to-back winning both conference team trophies in 2018-19 and again in 2019-20 for the first time since the 2001 and 2002 seasons, and three straight regular season titles for the first time since 2000-02.

NC State has also posted five straight seasons finishing in the top-10 in the NWCA Coaches’ Poll. The Wolfpack has been ranked in the top-10 in 73 straight polls over the last five seasons. The Pack was a school-best No. 2 following a 23-1 campaign in 2015-16, No. 8 in 2016-17 with a 13-2 mark, No. 6 with a 15-2 record in 2017-18, No. 10 in 2018-19 with a 16-3 record, and No. 3 for the 2019-20 season (as one of only two undefeated teams nationally – Iowa).

In 2019-20, NC State posted its first-ever undefeated dual season, going a perfect 15-0. The Pack posted five ranked wins, including three straight weekends of top-10 ACC victories. Over the last three seasons, NC State is a league-best 14-1 in ACC duals.

NC State has won 82 of its 90 duals (91.1 percent) the last five seasons. That winning percentage sits second-best in the NCAA, and the 82 dual victories leads the nation (the next closest is at 72).

On the recruiting trial, NC State’s 2016 12-person signing class was ranked the nation’s best by both FloWrestling.com and InterMatWrestling.com. In that class, the Pack signed two of the top-six ranked wrestlers in the 2016 recruiting class, and five in the top-66 overall.

NC State’s 2018 class was ranked No. 3 nationally and featured five wrestlers ranked in the top-100 nationally by InterMat, including four in the top-55, and two in the top-25. The class was also No. 6 by both FloWrestling and TheOpenMat.

The signing class in 2019, was ranked No. 16 by InterMat and No. 17 by FloWrestling. Four from the nine-member class were ranked in the top-100 nationally.

The Wolfpack put together another top-10 class that will be freshmen in 2020-21, as FloWrestling ranked the Pack’s class of 2020 No. 8 nationally. It marked the third time in the last five years the Wolfpack has been ranked in the top-10 nationally, and this is the third straight class ranked in the top-20 by FloWrestling.

Following his first campaign, Popolizio and his staff signed a top-rated recruiting class in the spring of 2013. The Pack’s signees were ranked: No. 4 according to D1collegewrestling, No. 10 by both WIN Magazine and InterMat, No. 13 by the Open Mat/AWN and No. 14 by Flo Wrestling. NC State made it two-for-two with another nationally ranked recruiting class in 2014, cited No. 19 by FloWrestling, No. 20 by TheOpenMat.com, and No. 25 by InterMat.

 In the classroom, NC State had its first-ever ACC Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Years, as Nick Gwiazdowski won the award in 2016, Michael Macchiavello followed suit in 2018. and Hayden Hiodlay was named in 2020 The Pack has also had 26 Academic All-America selections, including a school record six in 2020, and 28 placed on the All-ACC Academic Team over the last seven years.

For the first time in school history, the NC State Wrestling team was named a National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Top-30 Scholar All-American Team in 2020. The Wolfpack ranked 16th nationally with a 3.25 team GPA.

In May of 2018, Popolizio served as the head coach for the USA at the Cadet Pan American Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The U.S. dominated, winning the team title with 9 of the 10 wrestlers winning Gold.

The 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID-19, but the season will still go down as one of the best in school history as the Pack finished #3 in the final NWCA Coaches’ Poll as one of only two undefeated schools nationally. The Pack repeated as both ACC Champions and ACC Dual Championships, while posting the first-ever undefeated season in school history (15-0). With the NCAAs canceled, NC State had six named All-Americans. The Pack claimed the ACC Wrestler of the Year (Hayden Hidlay), Rookie of the Year (Trent Hidlay), Coach of the Year (Popolizio) and Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Hayden Hidlay).

In 2018-19, the Wolfpack posted its school record sixth straight top-20 finish at the NCAA Championships, placing 17th overall. Hayden Hidlay became only the third wrestler in school history to earn All-American honors as both a freshman and sophomore after he placed fourth. NC State also won the ACC Championship with three individual titles and won a share of the ACC regular season title for the second straight year.

In 2017-18, NC State brought home its first-ever team trophy, as the Wolfpack finished a school and ACC-best fourth at the 2018 NCAA Championships. R-Sr. Michael Macchiavello won a national title at 197 pounds, and R-Fr. Hayden Hidlay placed second at 157 pounds. NC State became the first ACC school with two NCAA Finalists. The Wolfpack also had a school record four All-Americans with R-Fr. Tariq Wilson placing third and Sr. Kevin Jack taking sixth.

The Pack went 15-2 in duals, and finished sixth in the final NWCA/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. For the second straight season, NC State took second at the ACC Championships, with three individual champions and five in the finals.

NC State went a perfect 5-0 in ACC duals, marking the Pack’s first ACC regular season title since 2004 and the first undefeated conference season since 2000.

NC State led the ACC and ranked 12th nationally in attendance with over 1,800 fans per dual, including over 3,900 fans versus Ohio State – both marks are school records.

Following the season, Popolizio was named ACC Coach of the Year and Macchiavello was named ACC Wrestler of the Year.

In 2016-17, NC State finished eighth in the final NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll after a 13-2 mark in duals, placed second at the ACC Championship with five reaching the finals, and took 17th at the NCAA Championships behind two-time All-American Kevin Jack and 10 NCAA Qualifiers.

The Pack defeated #16 Michigan, 23-15, in the NWCA National Duals, becoming one of only three schools to win their matchups each of the first two years in the event.

The 2015-16 season will go down as one of the best in school history. NC State won the 2016 ACC Championship, the first at NC State since 2007. Four individuals were crowned conference champions, and six made it to the finals overall.

Following the conference title, the Pack had eight NCAA Qualifiers, including six seeded grapplers and for the first time ever; four were seeded fifth or better. As a team, NC State finished in 11th place at the NCAA Championships, the best finish since a school-best seventh in 1993. The Pack tied the school record with three All-Americans in 2016: Tommy Gantt (5th – 157), Pete Renda (3rd – 184) and Nick Gwiazdowski (2nd – 285).

NC State finished the regular season ranked #2 in the final NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, the highest ranking in school history. The Pack went 23-1 in dual matches, setting a new single season school record for most wins. NC State also set a new school record with 21 consecutive wins to start the 2016 season, as the previous best was nine. Included in the dual wins were road victories at national powers Oklahoma State and Iowa – making NC State the first school ever to win at both in the same season.

Following his fourth season at NC State, Popolizio was named the 2016 National Coach of the Year by FloWrestling.

Redshirt-senior Nick Gwiazdowski was named the 2016 ACC Wrestler of the Year, the third consecutive season he has won the conference’s top award. He is only the second wrestler in ACC history to be named Wrestler of the Year three straight times. During his three-year career at NC State, Gwiazdowski won two NCAA titles (2014, 2015) and finished runner-up in 2016, in addition to winning three straight ACC heavyweight titles and finishing his NC State career a perfect 55-0 in duals.

In 2015, the Pack placed 16th at the NCAA Championships. NC State had a pair of All-Americans for the first season since 1993, as Gwiazdowski repeated as NCAA Champion at 285 pounds and became the first wrestler in school history to win multiple NCAA titles, and only the third ACC wrestler all-time to do so, and the first since 1995. He finished the season undefeated, going a perfect 35-0. Freshman Kevin Jack went from unseeded to a fifth place finish at 141 pounds. Gwiazdowski repeated as ACC Wrestler of the Year, while Jack was named the ACC Freshman of the Year.

NC State finished 2015 with a dual record of 16-6, with all but one of the losses coming to top-10 teams at the time of the dual. The 16 wins are the fourth-most in a single season at NC State. The Pack finished the regular season ranked 17th nationally in the final USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll. NC State was also ranked #14 by InterMat.com and #18 by FloWreslting.com in their final regular season polls.

In just his second season in 2014, Popolizio added to the Pack’s storied tradition with NC State’s sixth individual national champion. Gwiazdowski became NC State’s third heavyweight to win the NCAA title. Gwiazdowski, who finished the year with a 42-2 record, won the ACC heavyweight title and then plowed through the NCAA field, winning five straight matches and defeating the No. 1 seed in the tournament, two-time NCAA champion Minnesota’s Tony Nelson, to win the title. He became the first ACC wrestler to win a national championship since the Wolfpack’s Darrion Caldwell in 2009. He was named the ACC Wrestler of the Year.

In all, five NC State wrestlers qualified for the 2014 NCAA Championships, combining for a 10-8 record. Three wrestlers, Gwiazdowski, Gantt and Sam Speno, each won at least two matches. As a team, the Pack finished 19th overall, the second highest finish among all ACC schools.

In his initial season as head coach for the Pack, NC State had three wrestlers qualify for the 2013 NCAA Championships, placing 63rd overall.

Prior to coming to NC State, in six seasons at Binghamton University (2007-12), Popolizio transformed the Bearcats into a national contender after inheriting the program that went 0-12 following its reinstatement in 2005-06. Among his highlights with the Bearcats:

  • 14th at the 2012 NCAA Championships
  • 21st at the 2010 NCAA Championships
  • 2010 CAA Champions
  • Two-time CAA coach of the year (2012 and 2010)
  • Candidate for national coach of the year in 2010
  • Four All-Americans and 21 NCAA qualifiers over six seasons
  • CAA Wrestler of the Year and CAA Rookie of the Year in both 2012 and 2010
  • 15-4 dual meet mark in 2011-12 was a school record .789 winning percentage
  • School record 16 wins in 2010-11

Binghamton’s meteoric rise on the mat has been mirrored in the classroom. Popolizio substantially improved the program’s Academic Performance Rate (APR) from 727 to 957 between 2006 and 2011. In his final season, the Bearcats earned individual 2012 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Academic honors and boasted 10 CAA Commissioner’s Academic Award honorees. In 2009, Popolizio’s team ranked 17th in the country academically. BU wrestlers also placed a high priority on community service, recently helping residents at emergency shelters and in their neighborhoods after historic flooding hit the area.

Prior to his stint at Binghamton, Popolizio was the lead assistant and recruiter at American University for two seasons, helping that program finish 17th in the country. At American, he coached seven NCAA qualifiers and the school’s first All-American. Prior to that, he served as an assistant coach at Army (2003-04) and Sacred Heart (2002-03). His team at Sacred Heart achieved the highest grade-point average of any wrestling program in the country.

Prior to entering the coaching ranks, Popolizio was a decorated wrestler during his student-athlete career for Oklahoma State coach John Smith, a six-time world champion. Among his highlights during his collegiate career:

  • Three-time NCAA qualifier
  • Won greater than 90 matches
  • Ranked No. 1 in the country at 184 pounds during senior year
  • Helped lead Oklahoma State to Top 5 national finishes (second, third, third and fifth) at NCAA Championships in each of his four seasons in Stillwater
  • Big 12 runner-up in 1998 and 2002
  • Fifth at the World Team Trials in 2003
  • 2002 Oklahoma State Hustle Award

Popolizio graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. He was a two-time Big 12 All Academic selection and five-time recipient of the Oklahoma State Student-Athlete Award.

At the prep level, Popolizio was a New York state scholastic champion for Niskayuna High. He was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 1996 state prep meet, where he captured the 177-pound title, and went on to become the national high school runner-up.”

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