Even though he spent plenty of his time there in a large gymnasium, Mike Hagerty probably would consider his trip across the pond to Hungary to be a shining moment in his long and distinguished wrestling coaching career.
The Blue Springs wrestling coach was one of two coaches for the United States team that competed July 6-10 at the 11th World University Championships in Pécs, Hungary, and brought back the first-place trophy for the first time. The event, conducted by FISU (International University Sports Federation), has been held every other year since 1998 after a 30-year hiatus.
“It was an exciting trip, a lot of fun,” Hagerty said. “The only issue is we didn’t get a tremendous amount time to see the culture. We did get to see a little bit, and the evenings consisted a lot watching the World Cup. Soccer and wrestling are really big over there.”
Hagerty had coached for a U.S. team on the world stage several times, including the World University Championships a dozen years ago in Canada. He said he received the assignment in March and after some “red tape stuff” knew for sure in April that he would be making the trip.
“USA Wrestling has a coaches pool, and selections are based on several factors,” Hagerty explained. “A lot of it is involvement with national team programs. In the coaches pool we have different levels, and I happen to be a gold level coach.”
Prior to the competition, the U.S. team trained for 12 days at Arizona State and started its flight to Europe from Phoenix. Even though the U.S. program selects top-flight coaches – Boise State assistant Dave Bennett also got selected – Hagerty said his job wasn’t too stressful.
“A lot of it is last-minute polish and preparation,” he said. “These kids all come from very accomplished programs and coaches that have worked with them throughout their career.
“I’ve know Dave for a while, and he’s great guy. One of the reason’s I took this assignment was the opportunity to work with him.”
In the World University Championships, athletes could be age 18 to 26. All but one U.S. wrestler was a collegiate national champion or All-American multiple times. The one exception, Anthony Ashnault at 65 kilograms (143 pounds), just redshirted as a freshman at Rutgers and was the lone wrestler who didn’t win a medal as a top-three finisher.
Gold medalists were Tyler Caldwell (74 kilograms/163 pounds) from Oklahoma State and Tyrell Fortune (125/275) from Division II Grand Valley State.
Silvers went to B.J. Futrell (61/134) from Ilinois, Chris Perry (86/189) from Iowa, Dustin Kilgore (97/213) from Kent State and James Green (70/154), a senior-to-be at Nebraska, and Matt McDonough (57/125) from Iowa won bronze.
“One of the challenges is helping guys be able to make weight, because they’re not in a regular training setting,” Hagerty said.
“We won the world championships for first time since Universities have been in existence. I knew we had a good team going over, but I’ve been on teams with really good individuals and things didn’t work out all together. This year things worked out.”
CHIONUMA TAKES OVER AT OUACHITA: One of Hagerty’s former wrestlers at Blue Springs, 2008 graduate Chris Chionuma, was named Monday as interim head coach Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Chionuma, who won a state championship as a senior at Blue Springs, was an assistant at Ouachita Baptist this past season. The previous head coach, Kevin Ward, was named Friday as the head coach at Army after the program produced 10 All-Americans in its first four seasons of existence.
Chionuma wrestled three seasons at Lindenwood University, where he was an NAIA national champion and three-time All-American, before he transferred to Oklahoma State and won a Big 12 title as a senior.