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Eldridge retires after 47 years as Coast Guard Academy head wrestling coach

Steve Eldridge as long-time Coast Guard Academy head wrestling coach
US Coast Guard Academy

Steve Eldridge is retiring as head wrestling coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after 47 years, the New London, Conn. academy announced Friday.

Rob McKnabb, in his second season on the Coast Guard coaching staff, is now serving as the interim head coach, according to his biography at the team website.

Eldridge took the helm of the academy’s wrestling program in 1966, when Lyndon Johnson was President and the Beatles were cranking out hits... and back before singlets were standard uniform, headgear was optional, and freshmen could not wrestle at the NCAA championships.

In nearly a half-century of service at the Coast Guard Academy, Eldridge earned four Coach of the Year awards, and led the Bears to five New England team championships. He coached nine NCAA Division III All-Americans, most recently, Nate Giorgio, who placed fourth in the 125-pound bracket at the 2012 NCAAs.

For his accomplishments as coach, Eldridge was inducted into the Coast Guard Academy Hall of Fame in 1989 and the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III Hall of Fame in 1995, becoming the first Coast Guard Academy coach to earn national Hall of Fame honors while still a coach. Just last year, Eldridge was presented with the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award by the NWCA Hall of Fame.

Until 2011, Eldridge also served as the men's cross country coach for 43 seasons.

Prior to coming to the academy, Eldridge wrestled and played football at the University of Missouri.

"We wish Mr. Eldridge all the best in retirement,” said Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, Academy Superintendent. “We appreciate his many years of service to the Academy."

Interim coach McKnabb brings impressive wrestling and coaching experience to his new new role at the academy.

McKnabb has coached at the high school and college level in Illinois, most recently at Triton College. Working with Hall of Fame coach Harry McGinnis, McKnabb worked with 24 national qualifiers, two All-Americans, and 21 Academic All-Americans.

As a wrestler, McKnabb competed for Bill Weick, Olympic coach and 1955 NCAA champ for University of Northern Iowa, at Chicago’s Mount Carmel High School… then continued his mat career at Illinois College. While at the NCAA Division III program, McKnabb was a two-time conference placewinner at 118 pounds, and was named Rookie of the Year following a 24-win freshman season.

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