Chris Chionuma, Big 12 wrestling champ at Oklahoma State and NAIA All-American at Lindenwood University who served as a graduate assistant coach at Ouachita Baptist University last season, has been named interim head wrestling coach for the OBU Tigers, the Arkansas-based school announced Tuesday.
Chionuma succeeds Kevin Ward, hired in March 2010 to launch the Ouachita Baptist wrestling program, who accepted the head coaching position at the US Military Academy at West Point on August 1.
As a wrestler, Chionuma brings valuable NCAA Division I and NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) experience to his new position as interim head coach at NCAA Division II Ouachita. A Missouri state champ for Blue Springs High School, Chionuma started his collegiate career at Lindenwood University, where he won the 2011 NAIA national title at 174 pounds. He was also a three-time NAIA All-American. Transferring to Oklahoma State as a senior, Chionuma won the 2013 Big 12 conference title for the Cowboys. Chionuma served as team captain for both wrestling programs, and was an Academic All-American at both Oklahoma State and Lindenwood.
In addition to those accomplishments, Chionuma also has served as an Athletes in Action assistant coach in Mongolia. An Oklahoma State graduate with a bachelor of science in education, Chionuma is pursuing a master's degree in sports administration.
Chionuma takes the reins of the Ouachita wrestling program which has quickly made a name for itself since its launch in the fall of 2010. In just four seasons, the Tigers can claim 10 NCAA Division II All-Americans and two national runner-ups. Ouachita Baptist finished fourth nationally in 2014 and gained a program-record five All-Americans. Ouachita wrestling has finished in the top 15 in the nation each of the past three seasons.
"We're excited to have Chris Chionuma during this interim time to continue the wresting tradition here at Ouachita," said Athletic Director David Sharp. "The fact that Chris has assisted with our program for the past year will help us maintain and build on Ouachita's outstanding wrestling program."
"I am honored to continue the tradition that Coach Ward has built here at Ouachita," Chionuma said. Noting that the Ouachita Tiger wrestling team has "an outstanding senior class," he added, "Our goal is to bring back another trophy accompanied by OBU's first national champion in this upcoming season."
Founded in 1866, Ouachita Baptist University is a private Christian liberal arts university in Arkadelphia, Ark., about 60 miles southwest of Little Rock. It has an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students, according to the Ouachita website. The school's sports teams are the Tigers.