ISUís Jackson Named AWN Rookie Coach of the Year
This feature about Iowa State head wrestling coach Kevin Jackson will also appear in the May issue of Amateur Wrestling News. Visit the publication’s website for instructions on how to obtain a copy. AWN has selected a Rookie Coach of the Year since 1962.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. Ė The 2009-2010 season was Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson’s first year at the helm in the college realm of wrestling. The 1992 Olympic gold medalist and USA Wrestling freestyle coach of 10 years knew that the school where he had captained the 1987 NCAA team championship squad could be the only starting place. Jackson has been honored by Amateur Wrestling News as its 2010 Rookie Coach of the Year.
Playing out in storybook fashion, Jackson returned to Iowa State in May of 2009 to become the seventh head wrestling coach in school history. In his first meeting with the veteran-laden Cyclone wrestling team, Jackson made things very clear.
“They were a team before I got here,” Jackson said. “But I told them we would have a defined plan. The plan is to be the best in the country and be national champions. I think the team immediately bought into that. I think the team understood that I came in with a set of skills that would allow them to get better. Anytime an athlete can believe that their coach is going to make them better, they’ll listen.”
ISU crowned two individual champions in Jake Varner (197) and David Zabriskie (HWT) for the squad to place third at the 2010 NCAA Championships.
Leading up the national tournament, the dividends from Jackson’s coaching could be seen and heard all season. A new, fiery presence was in the corner for the Cyclones, and Jackson was focused on getting the most from his standout group of wrestlers throughout his rookie ISU campaign.
“We are trying to motivate these student-athletes without getting too technical,” Jackson said. “Sometimes it is better to be simple. I want to let our guys know what I expect out of them out there and just try to be positive.”
Jackson, a native of Lansing, Mich., was certainly focused during his wrestling days. He was a four-time NCAA All-American, placing third, third and seventh, respectively, at Louisiana State, and second in his senior season at Iowa State between 1983-1987.
The standout grappler transferred to ISU after Louisiana State discontinued its wrestling program in 1986. Jackson’s career efforts have been recognized by his induction into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, the United States National Wrestling Hall of Fame (as a distinguished member) and the Iowa State University Athletics Hall of Fame (2007 inductee).
“Any time you have a chance to be honored, it is a humbling experience,” Jackson said. “I’m honored to be recognized by Amateur Wrestling News. I appreciate it a lot.”
The ISU leader is one of three coaches to be named both Rookie Wrestler of the Year and Rookie Coach of the Year by Amateur Wrestling News. Jackson garnered the rookie wrestler accolade in 1983. Iowa’s Mike DeAnna and Cyclone Cael Sanderson have also received both honors.
ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard knew what he was getting the tradition-rich ISU wrestling program when he sought out Jackson for the head coaching spot.
“Coach Jackson has been everything we thought he was going to be,” Pollard said. “What struck us in our meeting with him last year was his passion for wrestling and his knowledge of the sport, both at the collegiate level and internationally. He had a desire to be at Iowa State. He’s been everything and anything we could have wanted with his drive and energy for the ISU wrestling program.”
With his inaugural year behind him, Jackson is already eyeing potential championships and titles that the future holds.
“I see the future as what every ISU coach that has been in my seat has strived for,” Jackson said. “We are going to contend year-in and year-out for national championships and we want to win them. We want to give our student-athletes and our program every chance to be the best.”