McKendree University’s James Kisgen has been selected as the 2017-18 NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA).
Kisgen received the honor prior to the start of the 2018 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Since being hired to start the Bearcats’ program in 2003-04, Kisgen has helped lead McKendree into the national spotlight in NCAA Division II wresting circles. Over the last two seasons, the Bearcats have won 35 duals matches, including a program-record 18 in 2016-17. This season, Kisgen guided McKendree to a 17-5 mark in dual-match competition.
The Bearcats won all six duals in Great Lakes Valley Conference play this season to bring home the program’s first GLVC title in just the league’s second year of sponsoring the sport.
“I’m flattered and humbled by this honor,” said Kisgen. “It’s a special honor made even more special by the fact that this is an award voted upon by my peers in the profession. This is a team award because it’s a collective effort – our student-athletes and our coaching staff.
"I’m also truly thankful to (McKendree President) Dr. James Dennis and (McKendree director of athletics) Chuck Brueggemann for all the help and support they have provided over the years. The resources they have been able to give us are a huge part of our success. It has allowed us to assemble a program that contends on a yearly basis.”
In his 15 seasons as the head coach of the McKendree wrestling program, Kisgen has led the Bearcats to an overall dual match record of 145-84. Seven times during that span, McKendree has won at least 10 duals in a season. In the five years that McKendree has competed as NCAA Division II members, Kisgen has coached the Bearcats to a 71-27 record (.724) in dual match competition.
McKendree has finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Division II Championships in each of the last five seasons, including a program-best fifth place effort in 2016-17.
“This is a tremendous honor for James and we are proud of what he has accomplished at McKendree,” said Brueggemann. “From the time he first arrived on campus, James has put the Bearcats on the map in the wrestling world, and has perennially kept the program in the conversation for a national championship. James’ student-athletes continue to compete at a high level on a yearly basis, and that is directly attributed to his recruiting talent and ability to get the most out of them on the mat.”
At the 2018 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, McKendree had seven student-athletes competing for a chance at a national crown. Five of the Bearcat grapplers were ranked heading into competition, including senior Darren Wynn, the top-rated wrestler in the 141-pound weight class entering the event. Wynn posted a national runner-up finish for the second consecutive year in Cedar Rapids after becoming the program’s first NCAA Division II wrestling national championship in 2015-16.
This is Kisgen’s third national Coach of the Year award in his 15-year career at McKendree. Kisgen was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Coach of the Year in 2007-08 and again in 2010-11.
Kisgen also becomes the second McKendree coach to receive national Coach of the Year honors since the Bearcats transitioned to NCAA Division II membership. Shannon O’Keefe earned Coach of the Year accolades from the National Tenpin Coaches Association (NTCA) in 2016-17.