Coach profile: Wirnsberger hopes to improve Bison wrestling EIWA standing in 12th season

Bethany Blass, Sports Co-Editors and Staff Writer

Twelve-year Bison wrestling head coach Dan Wirnsberger looks to lead his team to success in its 2016-2017 season. The 1995 Michigan State University alumnus boasts an impressive wrestling career as a three-year captain before his shift to coaching. His time with the Bison has proven to be successful, as he garnered 98 wins and back-to-back third-place Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championship finishes. He has also led 16 different Bison wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.

Wirnsberger was a four-time high school wrestling state champion in South Carolina and Kansas. The South Carolina native attended Michigan State, where he was a three-time NCAA All-American, Big Ten Champion, and NCAA finalist. Wirnsberger continued his wrestling career after college, competing internationally for three years for the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club and on a USA wrestling tour to Russia. Among his many awards and honors, he qualified for the World Team Trials.

Wirnsberger got into coaching in hopes of pursuing his goal of being part of a World Team. Wirnsberger’s passion for coaching was sparked in response to the positive impacts his high school football coach and college wrestling coach had on him.

“I had a desire to make a similar impact on other people’s lives like they had on mine. They both cared about me as more than just an athlete,” Wirnsberger said.

His coaching career began with the Mason Youth Wrestling Program in Michigan, followed by a stint as head wrestling coach and junior varsity football coach at Greer High School in South Carolina. Wirnsberger previously served as Virginia Tech wrestling assistant coach and Bloomsburg University’s head wrestling coach, where his successful coaching career earned him the 2005 title of PSAC Coach of the Year. His transition to coaching the Orange and Blue was a move guided towards developing the program to becoming a contender for one of the top programs in the East.

Wirnsberger felt support from benefactor William Graham and athletic directors Tim Pavlechko and John Hardt, who were all instrumental in bringing the University’s wrestling program back to the national stage. Their similar vision of what they hoped the program would become made Wirnsberger the perfect fit for taking over the reinstated varsity program after its four-year hiatus as its 15th head coach in 2005.

The Bison wrestling team’s EIWA conference is not only the largest conference in the nation, but is also ranked the second most competitive and challenging in the country. The past two seasons, the Orange and Blue have earned third place in the conference tournament, though their goal is to catch top conference opponents Cornell and Lehigh. As noted by Wirnsberger, the team’s goal this season is to improve its conference status by ending the season as a top-25 program. Additionally, the overall goal is to improve the team’s finish and get as many Bison athletes to the NCAA tournament as possible.

Along with the team’s high athletic standard, Wirnsberger also recognizes the importance of academics for his student-athletes. The wrestling team has been a top-10 academic team the past few years, and he hopes the team can improve to a top-5 team academically.

“Our team expectation, as always, is to control the things we can control. Our theme stays consistent with: ‘You may not always wrestle your best, but you can always try your best.’ The one thing we can control is our effort, and the effort begins in the preparation process during the week and carries over into competition on the weekend,” Wirnsberger said.

The team looks to improve its 0-2 overall record as the Bison travel to compete in the Cliff Keen Invitational on Dec. 2 and 3.

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