Three years after completing his wrestling career at St. John’s University, Tony Willaert has been promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach of his alma mater, the Minnesota Division III school announced Thursday.
Willaert’s promotion is one of three changes within the St. John’s athletic program centered on wrestling. Willaert takes the position previously held by Brandon Novak, who has decided to focus his professional coaching career on the Johnnies’ football program, serving as its co-defensive coordinator (while serving as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach for the 2014-15 season). In addition, assistant wrestling coach Kevin Schiltz is taking on added responsibilities as the mat program’s top assistant, as well as the athletic department’s equipment manager.
Both Willaert and Schiltz bring impressive wrestling and coaching accomplishments to their new positions within the program they have each served for a number of years.
As a wrestler at St. John’s, Willaert qualified for the NCAA Division III championships at 197 pounds as a senior. Upon graduation in 2011, he took on the role as an assistant coach at his alma mater.
Schiltz, who has been on the coaching staff at St. John’s for 12 seasons, was a three-time NCAA Division III All-American and four-time MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) champ at Augsburg College. He graduated from the Minneapolis school in 1993.
During the decade with Novak at the helm, SJU’s wrestling program can claim an overall dual-meet record of 82-73. Thirty-eight Johnnies qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships (including Willaert), with 15 NCAA All-Americans, including three-time national champ Minga Batsukh.
"I am excited for Tony and the direction of the program," Novak said. "The team is in good hands with Tony, and the addition of Kevin, full-time. SJU's athletic department became a better one today."
"I am honored to lead this tradition-rich program and its student-athletes," Willaert said. "The bar has been set high and I'm excited for the opportunity."
Located in Collegeville, Minn. between the Twin Cities and Fargo, N.D., St. John’s University is a private, Roman Catholic school with an enrollment of approximately 2,000 men.