According to the terse, 50-word statement, the two coaches “had been dismissed for violation of institutional policy” without further explanation. The story was posted at the official Grand Canyon wrestling website with the headline “GCU Announces Wrestling Program Changes.”
The announcement concluded with the sentence, “A search for replacements will begin immediately.” The only other information provided was a brief, one-sentence summation of each coach’ s career at GCU: “LaHaye joined the program for its inaugural season in 2007-08. Wilbanks was with the program the last five seasons.”
The Grand Canyon Antelopes wrestling program had completed its first season of NCAA Division I competition in 2013-14, having been a Division II program since its launch seven seasons ago. In fact, in his biography at the program’s official website, LaHaye is described as “the coach that founded the program in 2007 and led it to NCAA Division II prominence.”
In its final four years of Division II competition under LaHaye, Grand Canyon compiled a 62-23 overall record. LaHaye coached 13 NCAA All-Americans. During that time, the Antelopes won a total of four individual national titles, most recently, heavyweight Tyrell Fortune, named NCAA Division II Wrestler of the Year in 2013. (Just last week, Fortune earned a gold medal in freestyle competition at the 2014 University World Championships.)
An Arizona native who won three state titles for Payson High School, LaHaye wrestled at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., where he was a 2004 NCAA Division II All-American. LaHaye was also a three-time NCAA Academic All-American, three-time NCAA National Qualifier, three-time All-Rocky Mountain Athletic selection, as well as a Colorado Collegiate Champion.
Like LaHaye, Wilbanks wrestled at Payson High, where he was a two-time Arizona state champ. And, like the former Antelopes head coach, Wilbanks continued his mat career at Western Colorado, where he was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American and a two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion. While at Grand Canyon, Wilbanks primarily worked with upper-weight wrestlers.
Located in Phoenix, Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949. It is a four-year, private Christian university with an on-campus enrollment of approximately 8,500 students.
- Jon Sioredas, former assistant wrestling coach at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Old Dominion, is the new head coach at Grand Canyon University, as TheOpenMat.com amateur wrestling website and “The Chattanoogan” newspaper first reported in late August, and later confirmed by the school.
- In late September, Grand Canyon announced the hiring of Mark Ellis (former UTC assistant, 2009 NCAA heavyweight champ for Missouri) as head assistant coach, and Brian Stith (two-time NCAA All-American at Arizona State) as assistant coach.
- In early October, R.C. LaHaye was named associate head coach at Newberry College, an NCAA Division II program in South Carolina.