College Wrestling Coaches Tilt-A-Whirl, Who Fell Off?

Jacob SchlottkeContributor IIMay 5, 2009

ATHENS - AUGUST 28:  Cael Sanderson of United States receives the gold medal for the men's Freestyle wrestling 84 kg event on August 28, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

A summer filled with head coaching openings has created a nauseating experience for fans of many of the largest wrestling programs in the land.  The sport well reputed for developing many of the top mixed martial arts stars (read: Dan Henderson, Brock Lesnar, Randy Couture) is often times mistaken for the WWE, but make no mistake about the names you're about to hear and their impact on their new locale.

Cael Sanderson, longtime Iowa State Cyclone, and the only undefeated division one NCAA champion in the history of the sport, left his perch with the 'Clones to move into the Nation's hotbed of wrestling talent—Pennsylvania. According to "Wrestling Talk", a social network of wrestling junkies, Sanderson takes with him his entire staff and several of the highly sought-after recruits that had originally followed him to Iowa State. 

The list leaving ISU to follow "King Cael" includes Iowa State's most valuable wrestler, Jake Varner.  Sanderson's will to win led him out of his comfort zone and into the throne at Penn State University, where he will now lead the Nittany Lions.

After the vacancy at Penn State was filled Iowa State was left in shambles compared to where they thought their program was headed.  The difficult task, even for the University that churns out champions like Sanderson and Dan Gable, of replacing Olympic Champion Cael Sanderson was taken head on by Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. 

Pollard spent a great deal of his time courting Terry Brands, the twin bother of the University of Iowa's elite head coach, Tom.  Brands, showing his commitment to ISU's major in-state rival, turned down Pollard on multiple occasions including the day the announced their new coach, Kevin Jackson. 

Jackson graduated from Iowa State in 1986-1987 after transferring from the defunct Louisiana State wrestling program and went on to win an Olympic gold in 1992 for the United States.

The University of Illinois kept their decision in-house.  After long time coach Mark Johnson decided to retire this summer the Fighting Illini were quick to name his replacement, Jim Heffernan. 

Heffernan, who paid his dues at the University as an assistant of 15 years, becomes yet another Iowa Hawkeye bred wrestler to take over a Division One post. While Heffernan is the least credentialed wrestler of the new coaching positions he makes up for it with decades of Division One coaching experience in the Big Ten and beyond. 

Keeping the coaching change in the family will provide a more fluid transition for recruits and the current roster of stars.

Arizona State University released their coach, Thom Ortiz, after eight years at the helm.  The Sun Devils struggled to move back into the national spotlight with a combination of mixed recruiting results and difficulty aligning a coaching staff. 

While there were many glimmers of hope through the years the powers that be decided to move on to another young leader for their program.  While the news has yet to be broken, several sources within the wrestling community point to Shawn Charles as the new man at the helm. 

Excitement around this selection runs deeper than at most universities because ASU has been known for developing many of the UFC's most anticipated young stars.