Morgan State hires former Olympian Kenny Monday as wrestling coach


Kenny Monday, the first black wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport, has been named the coach of Morgan State’s wrestling program – the only historically black college or university to offer the sport at the Division I level of the NCAA.

Monday, a 60-year-old athlete, triple Olympian, resumes a dormant program since the 1996-97 season for lack of means. The plan is for the Bears to make their debut in 2023.

Monday, a three-time All-American at 150 pounds at Oklahoma State, is considered one of the mainstays of American freestyle wrestling. He won the U.S. titles in 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1996 and the world championship in 1989. Monday outlasted Soviet Union’s Adlan Varaev for a 5-2 overtime victory at 74 kilograms to claim the gold medal gold at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and he won a silver medal at the same weight at the 1992 Games in Barcelona and placed sixth at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Morgan State athletic director Dena Freeman-Patton said she was “blown away” during an interview Monday.

“He’s the right person to lead us in this initiative and to help us be at the forefront of other HBCUs to be able to bring wrestling programs back, and we want to be able to do that right…” she said. declared. “He’s going to have to come this year and start from scratch with the recruitment and the arrival of new students, but he already has a few online. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and he’s willing to be a partner in making it happen.

Jahi Jones – executive director of the HBCU Wrestling Initiative, which partnered with former Princeton wrestler and investment firm CEO Mike Novogratz to provide a $2.7 million donation to revive the program at Morgan State – applauded the hiring.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Jones, who wrestled for four years at Maryland. “You have the first HBCU, and their program was discontinued 25 years ago. And now he’s being coached by the first black Olympic champion in the sport of wrestling. Just to know that this program is the first HBCU with a Division I program that will be coached by someone as high caliber as Kenny Monday, it’s definitely a job well done, and we’re really excited about the future. of Morgan State wrestling. ”

Monday, who is at a youth wrestling camp in the UK, was unavailable for comment.

Freeman-Patton said Monday was one of three finalists for the job and impressed her with her knowledge of young athletes.

“We were able to just sit down and have a conversation about where wrestling is now, what young people – especially African Americans – will be like and give them the opportunity to wrestle at the Division I level in an HBCU,” she said. “He was really passionate about it. Not that the others weren’t, but I’m more of a strategic person. So if I have someone coming in and I can see that he sees the vision and how getting there, it helps me make a decision, and he had both.

Jones pointed out that Monday is just one of four Division I coaches to win Olympic gold, joining Oklahoma State’s John Smith (1988 and 1992), Iowa’s Tom Brands (1996) and Penn State’s Cael Sanderson (2004). Monday is believed to be only the third black Division I head coach; Indiana’s Angel Escobedo and Duke’s Glen Lenham are the others.

“There aren’t a lot of black coaches out there already,” Jones said. “He being that, that is his name. And then what is also important is that [the hiring] shows that there will be more opportunities. If this program is successful, it can create a spark for other programs and other black people and coaches to be inspired to want to coach.

Despite missing more than two decades, the Bears have a long history in the fight. The school won the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles from 1963 to 1965 and 13 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crowns. The program developed four NCAA Division II champions before being discontinued after the 1996-97 season.

Despite being a decorated wrestler, this will be Monday’s first opportunity to be a head coach. He was an assistant under Smith at his alma mater from 1987 to 1992 and again from 2010 to 2013. He was hired by the Blackzilians, a mixed martial arts camp in Boca Raton, Florida, as a wrestling coach before being fired after a year.

Jones said he didn’t think Monday’s lack of head coaching experience at the Division I level would be a hindrance.

“He’s been there for a while,” Jones said. “It was a personal choice for him not to want to run a Division I program. He is now a youth level coach.

Freeman-Patton said there’s a lot of work to do before the program’s inaugural season in 2023-24. She said the plan was for the school to compete as an independent, which requires some finesse in building a schedule and recruiting potential recruits.

Freeman-Patton said she’s already noticed a surge of excitement around the program and has sought to temper some of that anticipation.

“I’m okay with people having expectations, but they also have to understand that it’s going to take all of us and it’s going to take a while to develop,” she said. “I think we have the opportunity to bring major recruits here and be competitive right away. resources and facilities to ensure our program is where it needs to be.

Monday’s two sons followed him in the fight. Kennedy qualified for the NCAA championships in 2018 and 2021 while at North Carolina, while Quincy qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2019, 2020 and 2022 for Princeton. He was the NCAA runner-up at 157 pounds last winter.

Jones said Monday he was eager to do what he could to help an HBCU like Morgan State.

“For him, HBCUs are a legacy that meant something to his family,” Jones said. “Her daughter [Sydnee] graduated from an HBCU [Howard]and his wife [the former Sabrina Goodwin] graduated from an HBCU [Tennessee State]. So for him, that legacy in terms of family and HBCU and knowing what those kinds of institutions have done for the black community is what made him want to take that job back. We weren’t really worried. Given the experience he had, he was successful wherever he went.

This story could be updated.

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