WVU seeks new wrestling coach

On his most recent (and he has made many) visit to the Mid-Ohio Valley West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck finally opened up and gave a response to his recent decision to not renew the contract of longtime wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.

“We have some sports that haven’t done well,” Luck explained. “Wrestling is an example. That’s a sport that matters in this part of the world.

“We have great high school wrestlers in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And we haven’t been able to win a match yet in the Big 12 which prompted the coaching change.

“Volleyball is another sport where we had not spent much effort or time on. It’s first year in the Big 12 it didn’t’ win a single match. Last year, we won five.”

Turnbull’s tenure in Morgantown stretched over four decades. The four-time Eastern Wrestling League Coach of the Year coached five individual national champions, 26 of the program’s 29 All-Americans, 42 EWL champions and more than 160 NCAA Championships qualifiers.

His success in the EWL was unmatched as he ended his final season with the Mountaineers with 276 dual meet victories as well as six EWL conference titles and 12 Top-25 finishes at the NCAA championships.

But like they say, that was then and we live in the now.

And the now witnessed Turnbull and his Mountaineers attempting to compete in one of the nation’s premier wrestling conferences – the Big 12.

Close setbacks against Iowa State (22-12) and Oklahoma (19-15) were offset by a 30-6 thumping at the hands of Oklahoma State and a fourth place finish at the Big 12 Championships in Norman, Okla.

Two seasons that concluded with a combined 13-20 mark and an 0-9 record in league action was more than Luck could tolerate and forced the former-Mountaineer quarterback to make the unpopular change.

“We have to get better there (wrestling),” continued the Director of Athletics. “When you live in a state where wrestling is an important sport. Then your flagship university has to lead the way in that sport.”

Two potential candidates have already visited the campus and two others were expected to come to Morgantown over the remainder of the week with one final candidate expected to be interviewed sometime this past week.

Hopes were to be able to name a successor to Turnbull by the end of this week or the beginning of the next.

“We have some very good candidates coming into Morgantown and we expect to be able to name a new coach very soon,” said Luck.

But, with the lack of success of the football and men’s basketball team during their first two campaigns in the Big 12, will this be the last?

“I reserve the right to talk about that only when the time comes when I have to talk about them, or any other coaching position at our school,” said the Director.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com