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May 19, 2014

The right fit

Sammie Henson had only been to West Virginia once prior to his interview for the head wrestling coach position but that was enough to convince him that Morgantown was the right fit for the next step in his career.

Henson's only trip to Morgantown came in 2009 when he visited the Mountain State to help train Danny Felix for the World Wrestling Championships and recalls the conversation he had with his wife upon his return home.

"I didn't tell Oliver (Luck) this but when I came back I said I could coach there. I could win there," he said. "The type of people you have in Morgantown and the surrounding areas that's how I was raised. I knew I could recruit Sammie Henson's and I knew that it would be a great place for me to live with my family."

Easy enough to say but Henson never believed the opportunity to act on those comments would ever arise.

So when the job became open, the St. Charles, Missouri native decided to interview for the position. A significant move considering that he had not interviewed for any other jobs since he accepted the head assistant coaching spot on the Missouri staff in 2012. But the decision making process came down to fit and Henson felt that West Virginia was the perfect match.

"I was hoping when I came on my interview it would be what I expected it was and it was," he said.

However, during the initial exchanges with West Virginia Henson said in a light hearted moment that it didn't get off to the start he had hoped when he accidently referred to Oliver Luck as his son, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew.

"My wife was kicking me under the table," he joked.

Henson brings a wealth of experience to the West Virginia program after coaching for 17 years and having 20-All-Americans and five NCAA national champions to his credit. He also serves as the current head coach of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, which has more current world and Olympic wrestlers than any other wrestling club in the United States.

Also an accomplished wrestler, Henson is one of only a few wrestlers in USA history to earn three world medals and earned a Silver Medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Started his college career at Missouri before spending his final two seasons at Clemson where he finished his career 71-0 and was inducted into the Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame.

"I feel like this has been a longtime overdue for me as a person and my family; my wife Stephanie and my two sons and my two daughters," he said. "It's been a lifelong dream for me to be a head wrestling coach at a division one program."

Henson understands that there is work to be done in front of him, but is excited for the opportunity to compete in a power conference such as the Big 12 and put his mark on the wrestling program. While he has moved around to various locations in the past, the head coach hopes to make this his home.

"Look for me and my family to be here a long, long time. This is not a move for me. I've moved a lot. If you haven't looked at my resume," he said. "I'm tired of moving and this is a great fit for us."

Henson plans to meet with his team this week and although it is late in the process for recruiting, will begin to set the groundwork on getting quality athletes in the program. He plans to heavily recruit the surrounding areas along with the state of West Virginia and also go after the top prospects in the country regardless of their locations.

Crediting his mother for his intensity, Henson lives by a simple philosophy that consistency wins and the plan is for the program to roll up its collective sleeves and get to work on becoming a power program.

As for his coaching staff, Henson did not make any announcements at his introductory press conference but did say that fit also will be an important aspect in that area as well.

"Someone that's been involved in my life somewhere down the line. Just because I have a system and I've been pretty successful with the system I have and I want the people I bring in to understand that," he said. "It's definitely going to be involved people in my life that have coached with me or trained with me."

That system that Henson speaks of will be based in hard-nosed coaching and he plans to follow-through with his athletes and make adjustments as he goes. He also plans to make adjustments to the future schedules with the Mountaineers competing in Vegas and future Southern Scuffle tournaments in Chattanooga, Tennessee to compete against the nation's best programs.

Henson believes that West Virginia's facilities are right near the top of what he's been around during his career and didn't express any concern over travel with the Big 12 Conference.

"As long as I have a budget I'm not worried about it," he said.


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