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April 3, 2008

2008-2009 Season - Eric Juergens named full-time head wrestling coach

Rock Island, Ill.– Eric Juergens, who compiled a phenomenal competitive record in high school and college, has dropped the interim tag and is now the full-time head wrestling coach at Augustana. The move was announced by Augustana president Steve Bahls today and came after a year where Juergens filled in as the interim coach when Pat Marsh stepped down to pursue other career opportunities in October.

“Signing Eric on as our full-time coach marks what I expect to be the beginning of Augustana wrestling’s return to national prominence,” said President Bahls. “Eric, in his year as the interim coach, demonstrated his ability to help our wrestlers become the best they can be. At the same time he is attracting wrestlers to Augustana who are bright students and well-rounded student athletes.”

Juergens was dealing with a short-handed team in his first year and the Vikings ended up 2-9 in dual meets and placed fourth in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin. Two of his individual wrestlers, George Gogonas (Bowie HS, Austin, Texas) and Brian Kerr (UnitedTownship HS, East Moline, Ill.) each went over the 20 victory plateau. Gogonas compiled a 26-10 record at 125 pounds and Kerr went 22-13 at 184.

“I am very excited about this opportunity,” said Juergens. “I am not sure I can put it into words but I have always wanted the chance to work with dedicated student/athletes who are intent on attaining goals both on the mat and off. We will be able to accomplish that at a great institution like Augustana. I feel fortunate to have been able to work side-by-side with some great people here during my year as the interim head coach. They are loyal and hard working and I am anxious to be part of this great and rich wrestling tradition.”

During his career as a competitor, Juergens was among the elite in the sport, putting together a prolific career both at MaquoketaHigh School in Maquoketa, Iowa and at the University of Iowa. With the Hawkeyes he won individual national titles both as a junior (1999-00) and as a senior (2000-01). He was third in the NCAA tournament in his freshman (1997-98) and sophomore (1998-99) seasons. As a senior he served as team captain and was the Hawkeye’s Most Valuable Performer. He was the Big Ten “Wrestler of the Year” and was selected as the University of Iowa’s “Male Athlete of the Year”.

Dan Gable, one of the biggest legends in the history of the sport, had this to say about Juergens. “Eric was a talented and tough competitor at the University of Iowa and he is another extension of former Hawkeyes who are excelling in the sport,” said Gable. “He will challenge his team to be as tough and hard-nosed as he was and that will be something that will define him as a coach. He has been around championship teams and championship performers and he will use that experience to his advantage.”

As a junior, Juergens was undefeated with a 33-0 record en route to winning his first national title. Along the way he won the Big Ten title and was the champion at the Midlands Tournament. He received the “Art Kraft Champion of Champions” award at the Midlands in 1999-00.

Jim Zaleski, his former head coach at Iowa, commented on Juergens ability to rise to the occasion. “Eric was certainly one of the best, if not the best, big match wrestler I have ever had the pleasure of coaching,” said Zaleski. “He just got better as the importance of the match got bigger. That was what was great about him. He loved being challenged and coaching is a challenge.”

Juergens finished third in the Big Ten both his freshman and sophomore seasons prior to placing third in the national meet each year. He was named NCAA “Freshman of the Year” at the completion of the 1997-98 season.

His high school career at MaquoketaHigh School in Maquoketa, Iowa was one of unparallel success. He was 144-0 during his four years, compiling 100 pins and winning four consecutive state titles. He was the Northern Plains Regional champion and was first team Amateur Wrestling News All-American. He was a second team Asics Tiger All-American as well and placed second at Cadet Nationals as a sophomore and was an honor roll student.

CurrentUniversity of Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis remembered Juergens as the ultimate success story. “Eric Juergens has had success at all levels – high school and college. He has proven that he is a winner and I am sure that he will take that winning mentality with him to Augustana as the head coach,” said Davis. “He will instill that same work ethic into his coaching and into his athletes that he had while he was competing.”

Juergens graduated from the University of Iowa in 2001 with a B.A. degree in English. He served as a volunteer assistant coach at Augustana in 2006-07 and before that he spent two seasons as a volunteer assistant at Loras. He started the highly successful “Young Guns” wrestling club and served as the camp director for the University of Iowa wrestling camps from 1998 until 2002.

The Augustana wrestling program is steeped in tradition, having won a total of 36 CCIW team titles, more than any other school.