Chris Fleeger, stellar wrestler and assistant coach at Purdue University, is the new head coach of the men’s wrestling program at University of the Cumberlands, the Kentucky-based school announced Thursday.
Fleeger replaces Matt Lowers, head coach of the Patriots men’s wrestling program since July 2010, who announced he was leaving in June.
A two-time Pennsylvania high school state champ, Fleeger continued his on-the-mat success for the Boilermakers. He was a three-time NCAA All-American (2002, 2003, 2006), only the third athlete in the long history of Purdue wrestling to have earned that distinction. Fleeger also brought home the 125-pound title at the 2003 Big Ten conference championships, earning Outstanding Wrestler honors at that event.
In addition to his college folkstyle career, Fleeger also made a name for himself in freestyle competition. The Trout Run, Pa. native was a two-time University Freestyle National Champion as well in 2001 and 2002. He also earned a bronze medal at the University World Championships in 2001 and a bronze at the Pan-American Championships in 2002.
After graduating from Purdue, Fleeger launched his coaching career. He was named head coach at Darton College in Albany, Ga. in 2011. Fleeger was named the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Eastern District "Man of the Year" after leading six Cavalier wrestlers to the NJCAA Wrestling Championships in 2012. Under Fleeger's guidance, sophomore Trey Hicks earned All-America honors with an eighth-place finish at 184 pounds, becoming just the second national honoree in Darton history.
In 2012, Fleeger returned to Purdue as an assistant coach. During the past two seasons, Fleeger coached three NCAA Division I All-Americans.
“I am very pleased to announce Chris Fleeger as our new head wrestling coach,” said UC Vice President of Athletics Randy Vernon. “Chris brings experience, both as a head coach and assistant coach, to our program. I feel his experience will be vital in elevating our men's wrestling program to new heights. He is a strong believer in discipline among his athletes and I believe he will be a strong role model for members of our wrestling team. He also has strong recruiting ties in both the South and Midwest, which obviously will be important to the future strength of our team. We are very fortunate to have Chris as part of our coaching staff."
Fleeger is equally eager to take the helm at University of the Cumberlands.
"I'm excited to become the coach at Cumberlands, a school that has great values and tradition on both the men and women's side of wrestling,” said Fleeger. “In my opinion, wrestling here is all about having good values and a good work ethic; wanting to succeed not only on the wrestling mat but in life as well. We are going to be looking for guys that want to work hard and buy into the program so that they will be successful. I'm willing to teach anyone to wrestle, but if they don't have that drive inside, it will be hard for them to succeed. I want guys that are going to work just as hard academically as they will on the mat."
In the Cumberlands announcement, Fleeger said that he wants to really develop the athletes he currently has on the roster now. His plans next year are to branch out and connect with the athletes locally in the state of Kentucky as well as nationally to bring in the best talent possible to the Patriot squad.
"UC is a wonderful community with strong values. The athletic programs are well supported and have rich tradition. I love working with the people here and I'm expecting to coach some great athletes. I want them to take pride and work hard in everything they put their name on."
University of the Cumberlands is located in Williamsburg, Ky. near the Tennessee border, about halfway between Lexington, Ky. and Knoxville, Tenn. The school has a total enrollment of 4,300 students, according to the school’s official website. The Patriots compete in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). Cumberlands also has a separate women’s intercollegiate wrestling program.