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Air Force Academy elevates Sam Barber to head wrestling coach

Sam Barber, new head wrestling coach at the US Air Force Academy
Sam Barber, new head wrestling coach at the US Air Force Academy
Photo courtesy of Air Force Sports Information, used with permission

Sam Barber, assistant coach for the Air Force wrestling program for the past six years, has been promoted to the Falcons’ head coach, the Colorado-based military academy announced Wednesday.

Barber replaces Joel Sharratt, Air Force head wrestling coach for the past eight seasons, who took the helm of the Navy program in April.

Barber joined the Falcon coaching staff in 2008-09 as a volunteer assistant. The following season, Barber became a full-time assistant and recruiting coordinator. While at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Barber has coached 11 national qualifiers.

In his nearly two decades of coaching, Barber has served as a head coach at his alma mater, Upper Iowa University, then at Augsburg College of Minnesota. In addition, Barber brings valuable international-level coaching experience, having headed up the 2012 FILA Cadet Pan American freestyle team and the 2013 FILA Junior Pan American freestyle team, which both captured gold medals.

"With humility and gratitude, I am excited to accept the challenge of becoming the next head coach at the United States Air Force Academy," said Barber. "I would not be in this position without the support of so many people throughout my career. I would like to thank Dr. (Hans) Mueh (Athletic Director) and Mr. George Nelson (Associate Athletic Director) for providing me the opportunity to lead the Air Force Academy wrestling program."

"On the mat, the vision will be to produce podium-prepared athletes who live a championship lifestyle," continued Barber. "This will directly support the essence of the institution: to build leaders of character in service to our nation in a culture of commitment and a climate of respect."

Nelson returned the compliment, saying, "We have without a doubt found the right guy to lead our wrestling program into the future. Sam is a great recruiter, teacher and mentor for these future officers to learn from. He understands our mission and how our cadet athletes fit into and contribute to that mission. I am confident he and his staff will keep us competitive for a long time."

Wayne Baughman, long-time Air Force wrestling coach who retired from the position in 2006, also weighed in on promotion. "I am very pleased to learn that Sam Barber has been selected as the new head wrestling coach at the United States Air Force Academy,” said Baughman, a multi-time Olympic wrestler and NCAA champ for the Oklahoma Sooners in the 1960s. “Sam has a distinguished history in wrestling as both a coach and administrator and is greatly respected by the entire wrestling community. I know he will do a superb job."

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