Cleveland’s West Shore has long been known as a national center for wrestling excellence. For decades, the Cleveland area has produced some of the nation’s top prep and scholastic teams and developed wrestlers who have gone on to excel at the college and international level.
Did you know that Cleveland is also the Big 10’s cradle of coaches with three area products heading teams in one of the country’s best NCAA wrestling conferences?
St. Edward graduate and two-time state champ Jim Heffernan begins his sixth season as head coach at Illinois this year after serving as the top assistant under Mark Johnson for 19 years – 17 at Illinois and two at Oregon State. The 1986 NCAA 150-pound champion and a four-time Big Ten Conference champion, Heffernan garnered the National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year honor in 2001 following the Illini’s fifth-place national finish and second-place finish in the Big Ten.
A 1987 graduate of the University of Iowa, Heffernan was a four-time All-American, while being a member of three Hawkeye NCAA and four Big Ten championship teams. Heffernan captained the Hawkeyes as a senior and grabbed Iowa’s Male Athlete of the Year honor in 1987.
Roger Chandler, who is entering his 19th year on the Michigan State wrestling staff and was promoted to associate head coach in 2011, has been named head coach of the Spartans beginning this season. He assumes the head coaching duties following Tom Minkel’s retirement.
“I’d like to thank Mark Hollis and the entire executive staff for giving me the opportunity to be the next head wrestling coach at Michigan State University,” said Chandler. “I’m truly honored and excited that they have placed their confidence in me to lead the program into the future.”
Chandler has helped produce 10 different All-Americans and six Big Ten Champions for a total of 22 All-America selections and nine Big Ten individual titles during his time at Michigan State.
A three-time All-American at Indiana, Chandler finished eighth at the NCAA Championships in 1995, third in 1996 and second in 1997. His only loss at the 1997 NCAA Championships came against Cary Kolat of Lock Haven, a two-time NCAA Champion and 1997 World Championship runner-up. The Big Ten Champion at 142 pounds in 1997, Chandler finished his Indiana career with a 134-25 record. He graduated from Indiana in 1997 with a degree in sport management.
While he was at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, Chandler was the 1992 Ohio state champion, wrestling on a team that produced 12 state champions and eight national champions. He ended his prep career with a 112-12 mark.
Joe McFarland is in his 17th season as head wrestling coach at the University of Michigan, where he has lifted the Maize and Blue to the upper tier of collegiate wrestling.
Since taking over the reigns in 1999, McFarland has helped mold Michigan into a highly-touted national contender, guiding the U-M wrestling squad to three Big Ten dual-meet championships (2004, ‘05, ‘06) and eight consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships (2001-08) — including an NCAA runner-up performance in 2005 — under his leadership. He ranks third on Michigan’s head coaching career wins list (182) under legendary head coach Cliff Keen (1926-42, ‘46-70) and his own collegiate coach, Dale Bahr (1979-99).
After completing his Michigan eligibility, McFarland embarked on a successful international wrestling career. He was the silver medalist at the 1986 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. McFarland captured the 1987 Tblisi Tournament bronze medal before winning the 1988 World Cup Championship, where he defeated the Soviet Union’s World Champion Hazar Isiev in the gold-medal match. McFarland was also named the Outstanding Wrestler of the 1988 USA-USSR dual meet in Orlando, Fla.
A graduate of North Olmsted High School, McFarland was a two-time Ohio state champion prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor.