Potential Candidates to Replace Kevin Dresser as Head Coach of Virginia Tech Wrestling

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Feb 24, 2017
[caption id="attachment_5635" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Kevin Dresser leaves Virginia Tech to take Iowa State job. [Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics][/caption]Over the past decade, Kevin Dresser rebuilt Virginia Tech wrestling and then took the program to higher levels than were unimaginable leading Virginia Tech to multiple ACC Dual Meet and Tournament titles along with a program best fourth place finish at last year's NCAA Tournament. This week, Dresser announced that he had accepted the head coaching job for Iowa State wrestling in what is a move home after a tremendous run across Southwest Virginia and turning Virginia Tech into the biggest wrestling power in the Southeast. Now, Whit Babcock will be looking for a new head coach to replace Dresser with any hire not likely to happen till after the Hokies compete in the NCAA Championships especially with Virginia Tech being a top contender to win the national title in a few weeks. In the meantime, assistant Tony Robie has taken over as the interim head coach in what also may also be a tryout for him to prove that he may be capable of succeeding Dresser as the Hokies' next head coach. However, Whit Babcock will have a decision to make on a replacement for Dresser so with that said, here's our look at some potential candidates that could replace Dresser.

Virginia Tech Assistant/Interim HC Tony Robie

As mentioned above, Tony Robie gets an audition for the head coaching job over these next few weeks but also seems like potentially the right choice as someone who was with Dresser for his whole tenure and has definitely proven to be one of the top assistants in the country. Robie also has some head coaching experience from his time at Binghamton, restarting that program for two years before joining Dresser. Robie has been primarily focused on wrestlers in the middle and upper weight classes with Robie having been a big part of the development of plenty of All-Americans in the Dresser era along with building a lineup that is built upon its back-end strength at 174, 184, 197, and heavyweight. Robie has proven to be a valuable assistant over the past decade on Dresser's staff that could bring plenty of continuity to a program that has been doing quite well. While it seems like promoting from in-house isn't the best choice a lot of the time, this time seems like it would be a great fit as Robie has a little bit different of a personality compared to Dresser which is something you want to see when a change happens even after an extremely successful tenure like Dresser's. Robie also has the trust of his wrestlers and has shown previously that he knows how to run a Division I wrestling program from his two-year stint at Binghamton restarting that program. Tony Robie has been one of the top assistants in the country and looking at the potential options, it seems like Robie may be the best choice to step up and lead the Hokies forward in their pursuit of brining Virginia Tech its first national title with next few weeks being the perfect audition opportunity for him to earn the job.

Cornell HC Rob Koll

If Whit Babcock decides to go outside the program or at least look at names outside of Virginia Tech, Cornell's Rob Koll likely should be at the top of the list as someone who has tremendous success at Cornell but has some roots in the ACC from his collegiate career at North Carolina and may have lots of interest in returning back to ACC country at the ACC's top program. Koll has Cornell currently ranked seventh in the nation this year and third among schools outside the Big 10 (only Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech are ahead of Cornell). Koll also led to Cornell to an upset of previously fourth-ranked Ohio State recently in the national duals while also having two wrestlers win individual national titles last season. During Koll's tenure, Cornell has sent nine wrestlers to the NCAA Championships six time including each of the past two years while Koll has also led Cornell to second-place finishes twice in 2009 and 2010, an impressive accomplishment especially for an Ivy League that doesn't have some of the same resources as other major programs. Koll has built a very successful program at Cornell, but one thing that could help the Hokies is the fact that Virginia Tech is likely able to offer Koll a contract that Cornell couldn't match. While Koll doesn't have the same connections to the state of Virginia as Dresser had to the state of Iowa, the chance to go to an elite program in the conference he wrestled in at the collegiate level and have a program with better resources could be hard to turn down. If the Hokies do look outside the program, Rob Koll should be one of the first calls.

Arizona State HC Zeke Jones

This is a more off-the-radar name given hwo he is out west, but Zeke Jones is in charge of the best program in the west currently at Arizona State with the Sun Devils ranked 20th despite not being in traditional wrestling country whatsoever. Jones has done a tremendous since taking over a few years ago making Arizon State the best of the west, but the opportunity to go to a major program out east may be hard to pass up. Jones has lots of experience and respect nationally as he was the US Freestyle Wrestling Head Coach at the 2012 Olympics and in the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Word Championship with the US placing seventh, third, and fifth respectively in those World Championships. Jones has also coached out east before at the collegiate level at Pennsylvania from 2005-2007 that included coaching a NCAA champion and two All-Americans in the 2005-2006 season. Jones is a guy that seems to likely have a lot of respect across the profession and would be a similar hire to what Babcock did hiring John Sung as someone that is coming from a smaller wrestling conference (Pac-12 isn't as big in wrestling as most sports) but bringing a big name brand with him due to how Jones has been the head coach of the US Freestyle Wrestling team at three world championships and the 2012 London Olympics. Despite the fact that the west is definitely not the hot-bead for wrestling, getting Jones right now likely would be a significant challenge given the fact that Jones has only been in Tempe for a few years and that Arizona State is his alma mater. Jones has also coached at the highest level of the sport in the Olympics so leaving his alma mater after only three seasons to head east may not be something he's as interested in as it would seem. However, Jones is definitely someone that Whit Babcock should give a call to gauge his level of interest if Virginia Tech doesn't want to go with Robie.

Other Potential Candidates

Appalachian State's JohnMark Bentley has built the Mountaineers into one of the top small conference programs in the country and as someone who also has some familiarity with the region, he could be a good fit. Lehigh's Pat Santoro could also be a person of interest as someone who has had success in the ACC previously but poaching him away from a school with lots of wrestling tradition like Lehigh would likely be a challenge though Virginia Tech's greater resources could give them more of a shot if they were to pursue him.

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