New Augustana wrestling coach Tony Willaert expects to build on the foundation built by his predecessor, Eric Juergens.
The head coach at St. John’s (Minn.) for the past three seasons, Willaert led the Johnnies to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division III West Regional earlier this year and coached four national tournament qualifiers.
He has coached nine wrestlers to NCAA Division III tourney berths over the past three seasons at his alma mater, where he spent three years as an assistant coach before being promoted to the head coaching position for the 2014-15 season.
“We were fortunate to have a strong applicant pool for the position and Tony has the vision and work ethic to continue the positive momentum established by Eric Juergens,’’ Augustana director of athletics Mike Zapolski said in a statement announcing the hire.
“Tony was an integral part of several solid teams at St. John’s, and has an excellent track record of identifying and developing young men who want to excel in the classroom and on the wrestling mat.’’
At Augustana, he becomes the Terry & Sandy Shockley Endowed Head Wrestling Coach and will lead a program which finished 17th last season at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships and is expected to return two all-Americans, 184-pounder Christos Giatras and 285-pounder Adarios Jones, for the 2017-18 season.
Juergens had coached the Vikings for the past 10 seasons, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and expressing a willingness to remain involved with the program in some capacity.
“I look forward to picking up where Eric left off,’’ Willaert said. “I am anxious to get started and I look forward to working with this team. It has great potential and the future is bright.’’
Willaert, who turns 28 years old on July 3, coached four National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar all-Americans during the 2016-17 season at St. John’s.
In addition to coaching at the collegiate level, Willaert has been the head coach of the Central Minnesota Wrestling Club for the past three years, training a pair of Minnesota state high school champions and six competitors who have earned all-American honors at the USA Freestyle/Greco-Roman National Championships.
Willaert has also been active with the NWCA/Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Academy.