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Sammie Henson hired as head wrestling coach at West Virginia University

New West Virginia University head wrestling coach Sammie Henson
New West Virginia University head wrestling coach Sammie Henson
Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com, used with permission

Sammie Henson, highly decorated wrestler and coach, has been named head wrestling coach at West Virginia University, the school announced Monday.

Henson replaces Craig Turnbull, Mountaineer head coach since 1979, whose contract was not renewed in late March.

Henson brings 17 years of coaching experience to Morgantown, having coached more than 20 NCAA All-Americans and five NCAA champs. Most recently, Henson has served as head assistant coach at the University of Missouri for the past two seasons. Prior to his time on the Tiger coaching staff, Henson has served at University of Oklahoma, Cal Poly (2007-09), University of Nebraska, Army, and Penn State.

In addition to his collegiate coaching, Henson is also the current head coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, which has more current world and Olympic wrestlers than any other wrestling club in the United States.

As a wrestler, Henson was a two-time NCAA champ for the now-defunct wrestling program at Clemson University. As a freestyle competitor, Henson won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and gold and bronze medals at World Championships.

“We are excited to have Sammie Henson join the Mountaineer family as our new head wrestling coach,” says athletic director Oliver Luck. “Sammie has experienced much success as a wrestler and a coach, and he knows what it takes to win. He brings a lot of excitement, energy and enthusiasm, and understands the work ethic that all Mountaineers share.”

“In addition to his record on the mat as a competitor and coach, two things really stood out to me about Sammie,” Luck added. “First, he has an excellent record academically during his coaching career and that is important to us provided our recent issues,” adds Luck. “Secondly, at all his stops, Sammie has had a vibrant role in the regional training centers to help amateur wrestlers train at the highest levels. Regional training centers make huge impacts with collegiate and amateur wresters, and we are excited to re-establish the dormant wrestling training center here.”

“First of all, I want to thank Oliver Luck, Keli Cunningham and Terri Howes and the rest of the athletic staff at West Virginia for believing in me,” said Henson. “I know they were searching for the right person to lead West Virginia wrestling and they found the right person for the job. This is a great fit for me and my family, and I look forward to changing the culture to making West Virginia wrestling among the nation’s best.”

Henson clearly has his work cut out for him. Just take a look at the official West Virginia University wrestling website.

In an article at the website reporting on Henson’s introductory press conference Monday, John Antonik wrote, “There are clearly some things that Henson has to figure out. In the two years West Virginia has been in the Big 12 it has yet to win a dual match, the closest it has come to a win was a four-point defeat to Oklahoma back on Feb. 6 of this year. West Virginia’s other two losses were by 24 points to fifth-ranked Oklahoma State and by 10 points to Iowa State.”

Adding to Mountaineer mat frustration: In two years of competing at the Big 12 Conference Championships, West Virginia has placed last in the team standings, and has had only one finalist – heavyweight A.J. Vizcarrondo at the 2014 championships.

Henson’s experience in coaching at Big 12 mat program Oklahoma – and at former Big 12 member Missouri – may provide West Virginia wrestling with new insights for competing successfully in one of the most storied -- and competitive -- wrestling conferences in the nation.