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Oklahoma's Jack Spates named NWCA Coach of the Year

OKLAHOMA CITY - The National Wrestling Coaches Association announced on Saturday, March 18 that University of Oklahoma head wrestling coach Jack Spates was named the NWCA Division I Coach of the Year.

Spates led the Sooners to a third-place finish behind Oklahoma State and Minnesota at the 2006 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships held at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, co-hosted by the University of Oklahoma.

The Sooners went 11-6-1 in duals this season and were ranked sixth coming into the NCAA tournament.

Led by placewinners Sam Hazewinkel (125), Teyon Ware (141), Matt Storniolo (149), Joel Flaggert (197) and Jake Hager (285), the Sooners finished better than expected.

"Jack Spates is one of the most respected coaches in the sport of wrestling," said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. "He's a proven winner and his dedication to his athletes is remarkable."

"He's truly deserving of the award," said NWCA President Ron Beaschler. "Spates' dedication is unparalleled."

"I'm especially grateful, especially since this award is coming from my peers," said Spates. "I feel it's an award that I freely and gladly share with my assistants Robbie Waller and Jeremy Spates, who have done a wonderful job, and the kids we have in our program of whom we are especially proud."

As a wrestler, Spates was a Division II national champion 118 pounds for Slippery Rock University in 1973 and a Division I national runner-up at 118 in 1974.

Since taking over at Oklahoma in 1994, Spates has led the Sooners to 11 Top 10 finishes in 12 years at the NCAA championships including six Top 5 finishes in the last seven years.

Spates' teams have finished third four out of the last five years.

"We had a lot of adversity this year," Spates said. "We came into the year with high expectations and lost our 133-pounder essentially for the whole season. Jarrod King tore his shoulder in the first month of the season and was in need of major shoulder sugery and Wes Roberts was out most of the year."

"It was a very challenging year in terms of injuries, but our guys never hung their heads," said Spates. "(At Nationals) they pretty much put it together and wrestle, for the most part, hard and well."

At OU, Spates has coached four wrestlers to five national championships and in 2000, Spates had six All-Americans, the highest for the program since former coach Stan Abel had six All-Americans in 1982.

"It's been his continued passion for the sport," said Waller, who won an NCAA title in 2003 for Spates. "After wrestling for him and coaching for him, you see how much he cares for the kids and the program."

"His passion hasn't diminished at all," Waller said. "He cares more, it seems."

"Oklahoma wrestling's resurgence can be directly attributed to Jack Spates' hard work in recruiting top-notch talent and developing that talent into All-Americans," said Moyer.

The National Wrestling Coaches Association names its Coach of the Year at the conclusion of each NCAA wrestling championship and no coach can receive the honor more than once in a five-year span.

Rob Koll of Cornell won the award in 2004. Spates coached at Cornell for three seasons before moving on to Norman.

The National Wrestling Coaches Association, established in 1928, is a professional organization dedicated to serve and provide leadership for the advancement of all levels of the sport of wrestling with primary emphasis on scholastic and collegiate programs. The membership embraces all people interested in amateur wrestling.

The NWCA, through its organizational structure, promotes communication, recognizes achievement, recommends rules and regulations, sponsors events, and serves as an educational and informational source. Additionally, the NWCA strives to foster the sportsmanship and integrity that are the cornerstones of athletic competition.

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