Longtime wrestling coach Turnbull ousted at West Virginia

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Local college wrestling will endure a second coaching change in as many years, though few saw this one coming.

While Pitt's Rande Stottlemyer retired after 34 years and a third consecutive Eastern Wrestling League title last spring, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck announced Friday the university would not renew the contract of 36-year veteran Craig Turnbull.

Turnbull led a transition into the wrestling-rich Big 12, but the Mountaineers went winless in conference dual meets and had five wrestlers go 3-10 at last week's NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

“It's a shame,” Stottlemyer said. “But I guess change is inevitable.”

Former Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary, who wrestled at WVU from 1985-89, said he was shaken by Friday's news and spent much of the day on the phone with former teammates.

“He was at my wedding, my 40th birthday and my mother's funeral,” Mary said. “He's very special to me and very special to many wrestlers who came through the program.”

Colin Johnston, who wrestled for Mary and finished his WVU career this winter, agrees.

“It's hard to see him not get his contract renewed,” Johnston said. “It's tough on everybody: his family, the guys on the team.”

Turnbull did not return a voice message.

West Virginia associate head coach Greg Jones, a Greensburg Salem graduate and a three-time NCAA champion under Turnbull, declined comment.

“It was a surprise,” said Matt Lebe, a former WVU wrestler who is Jeannette's wrestling coach and athletic director. “A lot of talking today to people who care about the program and Coach Turnbull.”

An All-American at Clarion, Turnbull had been WVU's head coach since 1979 and compiled a record of 287-214-9.

The four-time Eastern Wrestling League Coach of the Year coached five individual national champions, 26 of the program's 29 All-Americans, 42 EWL champions and more than 160 NCAA qualifiers.

Edinboro's Tim Flynn used to coach alongside Stottlemyer and Turnbull in the EWL, but now Flynn, a 17-year veteran, finds himself as the area's longest-tenured coach, the second-longest in the EWL.

“It makes me feel old,” Flynn joked. “Those two were my mentors in the EWL. They took good care of me.”

Luck thanked Turnbull in a statement and said a national search for Turnbull's replacement will begin immediately.

“He's done a heck of a job over the years,” Stottlemyer said. “He's had national champions. I guess they felt like they needed to go a different direction. I don't know.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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