WHEELING, W.Va., April 8, 2019 – West Liberty University announced Monday that NCAA Division II Coach of the Year Danny Irwin has been hired as the Hilltoppers’ new head wrestling coach. The announcement came during a morning press conference at the university’s downtown center.
“We are tremendously excited to bring in such an impressive young man who has demonstrated success at the highest levels athletically and academically,” WLU President Dr. Stephen Greiner said. “Coach Irwin’s incredible work ethic combined with his proven ability to recruit and develop high-achieving student-athletes on and off the mat make him a perfect ambassador for his sport and a great fit for our university.”
Irwin replaces former head coach Mitch Smith, who recently stepped down to accept a position in the private sector that would permit him to spend more time with his growing family.
“I want to thank Coach Smith for his hard work and dedication over the past four years,” athletic director Lynn Ullom said. “Mitch played an integral role as we upgraded our facilities to the point where we now have some of the best in the region, putting us in position to take the next step.
“I’m always looking for the best possible candidate but being able to hand the reins of our storied wrestling program over to the reigning National Coach of the Year is the definition of a home run hire. Coach Irwin’s accomplishments speak for themselves, but I was even more impressed by the obvious passion he has for the sport and his student-athletes along with the vision he has for the program. We are thrilled to welcome him to the West Liberty family.”
Irwin comes to WLU a few weeks after leading Wheeling Jesuit University to a runner-up finish at the 2018-19 NCAA Division II Nationals in Cleveland. All six of Irwin’s national qualifiers earned NCAA Division II All-America status with two of them winning national championships. Irwin was honored as the 2018-19 NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in just his second season as a collegiate head man.
Just as impressively, a program-record seven members of Irwin’s national runner-up squad at WJU were named to the 2018-19 National Wrestling Coaches Association’s All-Academic Team.
“I’m deeply honored to take over a program with the rich tradition of West Liberty wrestling,” Irwin said. “This was an awesome opportunity for me to work with a group of people who are committed to success in every phase of the student-athlete experience. The support this program receives from the alumni, administration and the Ohio Valley wrestling community is overwhelming.”
The Hilltoppers’ new head man began his coaching career with a 2-year stint at Bluffton (Ind.) High School. He led the Tigers to a conference championship before moving into the college ranks as an assistant coach at NCAA Division III Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.
The Little Giants posted four NCAA Division III Top 10 finishes during Irwin’s nine years on the staff. He won three Regional Assistant Coach of the Year Awards and was a national finalist for the Best of Brands Social Media Award across all NCAA divisions before heading off to Wheeling Jesuit.
“My immediate goal at WLU is to get to know the team and the families that support them,” Irwin said. “I also want to hear from the alumni base. Each one has a different story but it’s the combination of those stories that make West Liberty one of the nation’s most tradition-rich wrestling programs.
“Winning the Coach of the Year award last month was neat, but it merely reflected the commitment from our coaching staff, support staff, wrestlers and their families throughout the year. The honor just gave me that much more motivation to give my family, my student-athletes and West Liberty University my best every day. I can’t wait to get started.”
An Indiana native, Irwin was a regional champion and 2-time NCAA Division III national qualifier during his collegiate career at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. He graduated from Manchester with a bachelor’s degree in History.
Irwin and his wife, Andrea, live in St. Clairsville, Ohio with their daughter, Addison and son, J.P.