Eric Juergens will turn the head coaching duties over to someone else, but the leader of the Augustana wrestling program for the past decade doesn’t plan on leaving the Vikings behind.
“When I came in, we faced a long, long uphill battle and stepping back now, things have never been in a better place and I want to see the program continue to grow,’’ Juergens said Wednesday shortly after announcing his decision.
“I want to do what I can to help the program continue to be successful. If that means running a practice so the coach can go recruit or being a workout partner for someone, I'm willing and wanting to do that.''
Family was at the root of Juergens’ decision.
He cited a desire to spend more time with his wife and the couple’s two young children, ages 3 and 6 months, as the primary reason he chose to resign.
"I've always talked about wanting to be there when they started to become involved in sports and other activities. I didn't want to find myself in the situation where I had to choose between going out recruiting or going to one of my kids' activities,’’ said Juergens, a Maquoketa, Iowa, native and two-time NCAA champion and four-time all-American as a competitor at Iowa.
"The time just felt right. We have everybody coming back. On paper, next year's team has a chance to be the best team I would have ever coached at Augustana. I've always wanted to leave this program in a good place for the next guy.''
Juergens doesn't plan to step away from the sport.
“I love the sport of wrestling too much. I've enjoyed being able to help young men develop both on and off the mat,’’ said Juergens, who will continue to work with the Young Guns Wrestling Club he owns.
Augustana has made significant strides under Juergens’ leadership.
His first three Vikings teams combined for an 11-30 dual record and placed no higher than third in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.
But in the past seven seasons, Augustana has finished with a winning dual record and combined for a 67-39 mark.
The Vikings won the CCIW championship in 2014 and have finished second in the conference on three other occasions since 2011, including in this year’s CCIW finals.
Juergens coached 13 CCIW individual champions and four NCAA Division III all-Americans during his tenure, including third-place finisher Adarios Jones and seventh-place finisher Christos Giatras during the 2016-17 season as the Vikings finished 17th in the NCAA Division III national tourney.
Augustana director of athletics Mike Zapolski praised Juergens’ work in raising the program’s level of competitiveness and building its roster over the past decade.
“Eric’s intensity and work ethic has become an important part of the program’s culture and he leaves the team in an outstanding position to make continued improvement,’’ Zapolski said.
He welcomes Juergens’ desire to retain an active role with the program both in the transition to a new head coach and prospectively into the future.
"The hope is for me to be able to pitch in and help the next coach at Augustana, but in a different capacity with maybe a little more flexibility,'' Juergens said. "I want to make this a great transition and I want the next coach to be successful.''
In addition to being the head coach at Augustana from 2007-17, Juergens spent three years as a volunteer coach and two seasons at Loras before joining the Augustana program during the 2006-07 school year.
A member of the Quad-City Sports Hall of Fame and a Quad-City Times male athlete of the year after concluding a 144-0 prep career at Maquoketa High School, Juergens served as camp director for the University of Iowa wrestling camps from 1998-2002.