From 1977-92, Jim Gibbons was a fixture in Iowa State’s storied wrestling program, making his mark as competitor and coach for the Cyclones. He is one of six Cyclone head coaches in school history to lead a team to national championship.
The Ames, Iowa, native began his collegiate wrestling career in 1977, chosing to compete for ISU’s legendary coach Harold Nichols after winning three Iowa prep individual state titles. Gibbons’ Cyclone wrestling career was just as impressive, earning All-America honors three times at 134 pounds (1980, 1981, 1982) and winning two 134-pound Big Eight titles (1980 & 1982). Gibbons reached the pinnacle of his sport by winning the 134-pound national title in 1981, upsetting Lehigh’s Darryl Burley 16-8.
After his competitive career was over, Gibbons immediately moved into coaching, assisting Nichols for two years until his retirement in 1985. Gibbons’ two-year stint as an assistant was so impressive, he was chosen as Nichols’ successor on his 26th birthday, April 1, 1985.
Under Gibbons’ tutelage, the ISU wrestling program continued to thrive in his seven years (1986-92) at the helm. Gibbons compiled a 93-32-1 mark and coached 23 individual Big Eight champions and seven individual NCAA champions. His squads finished among the top three nationally three times, including the 1987 team that won the NCAA title. Gibbons’ 1987 squad was one of the best in school history, capturing ISU’s eighth NCAA wrestling championship, ending Iowa’s nine-year run of consecutive national titles. Four Cyclones won individual national titles in 1987, helping Gibbons to earn national coach of the year honors. Two of Gibbons’ best wrestlers were Tim Krieger (150) and Eric Voelker (190), each winning a pair of individual NCAA individual titles. Krieger was named the outstanding wrestler at the 1989 NCAA Championship.