Kevin Ward, former Oklahoma State All-American wrestler man who launched the wrestling program at Ouachita Baptist University, has been named head coach for Army, the US Military Academy at West Point announced Friday.
Ward, the 2014 NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, becomes the 10th head coach in program history. He replaces Joe Heskett, who left in June after four years at the helm of the Army wrestling program, to become the new associate athletic director for sports performance at West Virginia University.
A native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., Ward was hired in March 2010 as the first head coach of the then-brand new Ouachita Baptist wrestling program, the first intercollegiate mat program in the state of Arkansas. In four seasons at the helm, Ward led the Tigers to top-15 finishes at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in each of the last three seasons. Ward coached 10 All-Americans and two NCAA D2 finalists, Dallas Smith and Josh Myers, during his time at Ouachita.
This past season, Ward guided the Tigers to a fourth-place finish at the NCAAs and an 8-5 dual match record last season. Five of Ward’s wrestlers claimed All-America honors in 2014, including Myers, who was the national runner-up at the 141-pound weight class. For these accomplishments, Ward earned Coach of the Year honors in 2014.
As an Oklahoma State wrestler, Ward compiled a 61-31 overall record. He was a two-time NCAA qualifier and twice a Big 12 conference championship finalist, winning the 157-pound title at the 2005 Big 12s. Ward was named a three-time Academic All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) and named three times to the 1st Team Academic All-Big 12.
“We are very excited to welcome Kevin to West Point,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Boo Corrigan. “We had a tremendous pool of candidates and Kevin’s success building a program, his leadership and passion made him our top choice. Kevin blew away me and the search committee when he visited. He is an overachiever that knows how to win. His accomplishments as a coach are many. We look forward to working with him in this next chapter of our wrestling program.”
“I am honored to be selected as the next head wrestling coach at West Point,” said Ward. “I would like to express my appreciation to Boo Corrigan and the search committee for giving me this opportunity. It’s quite a privilege to lead such a proud program with as much tradition as Army wrestling. The cadet-athletes at West Point are the best of the best, and I look forward helping develop them as leaders of character in the United States Army and champions on the wrestling mat. Army wrestling is in a great spot with a nationally ranked recruiting class coming in and multiple NCAA Qualifiers on the team. We will continue to look for and recruit wrestlers who truly want to be leaders of character and have goals of winning NCAA titles. I am ready to get to work and continue to build on the proud tradition of Army wrestling”
“I would also like to thank the many great people, and, most importantly, the student-athletes I was fortunate enough to coach at Ouachita Baptist University,” said Ward. “Without their hard work and discipline, none of this would have been made possible. They are a great group of young men and we wish them the very best.”
Mike Moyer, NWCA's Executive Director, said, “Number one, he has phenomenal CEO skills. He is a tireless worker who has a coaching philosophy that is closely aligned with educational values. He is on the Executive Committee of the NWCA and is flat out a great leader. He is a terrific, bright shining star in our sport. He is a tireless, passionate coach that will serve the Academy and the athletes very well.”
“He has a deep background at one of the highest wrestling institutions in the country, coming from Oklahoma State,” according to Mark Branch, University of Wyoming head coach. “Then he went to a unique place to start a wrestling program and really built it from the ground up, and he was able to achieve an incredible amount of success in a very short period of time.”
Ward’s coach at Oklahoma State, John Smith, said of his former wrestler, “Kevin has great patience. I have watched him develop a team in the short term and he has done so with real patience. He was always business-minded and that’s where his interest was as far as academics. He had great passion for wrestling when he graduated. He went into business and came back to wrestling and we are glad he did. He is a great young coach and West Point will be happy with Kevin as the head coach.”