Former Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Champion Kevin Jackson is in his seventh season as Iowa State’s head wrestling coach. In his initial year at the helm, Jackson coached two NCAA individual champions en route to a third-place finish at the 2010 NCAA Championships.
Jackson's efforts with the Cyclone squad in his inaugural campaign didn't go unnoticed, as he was honored as Amateur Wrestling News magazine’s 2010 Rookie Coach of the Year. Jackson coached the ISU grapplers to a 13-2 overall dual record, with a perfect 4-0 mark in Big 12 action.
In 2010-11, Jackson’s squad finished the year with a 9-10 mark in dual competition. The year was highlighted by senior Jon Reader, who went 39-0 en route to an individual NCAA title at 174 pounds.
After a down year in 2011-12, Jackson was able to rally his troops and bounce back strongly in 2012-13. After a 1-3 start, Jackson’s Cyclones won 10 of their last 12 duals, finishing second at the 2013 Big 12 Championships and 11th at the NCAA Championships.
A 12th-place team finish at the NCAA Championships kept the Cyclones in the nation's top-15 in 2014, as Kyven Gadson (4th - 197), Michael Moreno (5th - 165) and Earl Hall, Jr. (8th - 125) each worked their way onto the NCAA podium. Two wrestlers crowned Big 12 Champions (Gadson and Lelund Weatherspoon), as Jackson coached Weatherspoon to becoming the Cyclones' first freshman Big 12 champion since David Zabriske in 2007.
Jackson coached the 2014-15 Iowa State wrestling squad to its best regular season performance since 2010. The Cyclones finished with an 11-2 dual record (.846) and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the coaches' poll. ISU finished runner-up champions to Oklahoma State at the 2015 Big 12 Championships, and qualified seven grapplers for the NCAA Championships.
At the 2015 NCAA Championships, Jackson coached Kyven Gadson to a perfect 5-0 record, including a fall in the 197-pound finals. Gadson credited Jackson for showing him the move that he used, "The Gadson", to pin Kyle Snyder in the Championship bout.
Under Jackson’s tutelage at Iowa State, ISU has placed at least one wrestler at the top of the podium every year at the conference tournament. In four seasons, the Lansing, Mich. native, has coached four NCAA champions, eight All-Americans and six Big 12 champions.
Prior to being hired at Iowa State, Jackson served eight years (2001-08) as the National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling. He was the first full-time freestyle wrestling coach for the organization and took two United States’ teams to the Olympics. Two of his athletes – Cael Sanderson (2004) and Henry Cejudo (2008) – won gold medals. His 2001 freestyle team won the World Cup, the 2003 team placed second and the 2006 squad finished third at that meet.
Before becoming the nation’s head freestyle coach, Jackson was a freestyle resident coach at the Olympic Training Center, head coach for the U.S. Army team at Fort Carson (1998-2001) and head coach of the Sunkist youth development program. During that tenure, he personally trained 2000 Olympic champion Brandon Slay.
As a competitive wrestler, Jackson established himself as one of the world's best in the 1990s, capturing gold medals at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and at the World Championships in both 1991 (Varna, Bulgaria) and 1995 (Atlanta). He is one of just five wrestlers in U.S. history with three career world-level titles.
Adding to an already impressive list of accomplishments competing at the international level, Jackson also won two Pan American Games titles as a U.S. World Team member in 1993 and 1995. He won three U.S. Open titles, placing second five times. In 1998, Jackson became the first American to win the prestigious Takhti Cup in Tehran, Iran.
Jackson’s success earned him a number of major awards, including the 1995 John Smith Award as National Freestyle Wrestler of the Year, 1992 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year and 1991 USA Wrestling and USOC Wrestler of the Year.
As a college wrestler, he attended Louisiana State and earned All-America honors three times before the school dropped the sport. He transferred to Iowa State for his senior year and captained the Cyclones’ last NCAA championship team (1987), earning another All-America honor with a NCAA runner-up finish after registering a 30-3-1 record on the year.
During his post-collegiate competitive career, Jackson also assisted with the Cyclone Wrestling Club (1989-92) and volunteered with the Arizona State (1997) wrestling program
Prior to college, Jackson won two state high school championships for Eastern High School in Lansing, Michigan before becoming a Junior National Greco-Roman champion.
Jackson's endless list of wrestling accolades has earned him recognition by several hall of fames. He is a member of the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, the United States National Wrestling Hall of Fame (as a distinguished member), Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame (1993 inductee) and the Iowa State University Athletics Hall of Fame (2007 inductee).
He earned a bachelor of sports science degree from the U.S. Sports Academy / University of Americas in 2005.
Jackson and his wife, Robin (a native of Emmetsburg, Iowa), have five children: Cole, Bailee, Trinity, Brynn and Kira.