Tom Minkel, long-time head wrestling coach at Michigan State, will be retiring at the end of the 2015-16 season – his 25th at the reins of the Spartans – with associate head coach Roger Chandler being promoted to that position in 2016, the Big Ten mat program in East Lansing announced Tuesday.
In what Michigan State described as a “coaching succession plan for wrestling”, Chandler has been named head coach designate. Upon Minkel’s retirement in 2016, Chandler , who has been on the coaching staff for 18 seasons and was promoted to associate head coach in 2011, will become the ninth coach in the long history of the Spartan wrestling program going back to 1886. Over the years, the Spartans can claim 25 individual NCAA champions, 68 individual Big Ten conference titlists, eight Big Ten team titles, and among the dozen programs in 85 years of NCAA championships to claim a national team title (in 1967).
“I’m excited about the future of Michigan State wrestling,” said athletic director Mark Hollis. “We’re thankful for everything that Coach Minkel has given to Michigan State and we’re looking forward to celebrating his exceptional career in the sport of wrestling during his final season. It’s also a year that affords Roger Chandler an opportunity to prepare for a successful transition.”
Hollis went on to cite some specific examples of similar passing-the-baton situations in Michigan State athletics, including his own transition to becoming athletic director at the school eight years ago. The MSU AD continued, “While they have worked together for many years, Roger and Tom are uniquely different individuals. This is Coach Minkel’s team, but once the season comes to a close, we’re going to give Roger every opportunity to be successful. We’re going to take that celebration of Tom’s career and push it into a new era of Spartan wrestling, with Roger leading the way.”
“I absolutely love coaching and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my tenure here at Michigan State,” said Minkel. “There’s not a day I can’t wait to get into the wrestling room and I certainly still have a passion for wrestling, but there comes a time when you sit with your wife and say `what’s on our list that we haven’t done yet and would like to do?’… The things that I’ll miss the most are the relationships with the young men on your team… At the end of the day, it’s really about helping a young man and making them a better person, a more disciplined person, a successful person, and I think if you talk to guys in the program who come back, invariably, wrestling had a dramatic impact on them. They learned to take responsibility for themselves, to challenge themselves in ways that they never thought they could, and strive for things they initially thought were out of reach. They come back significantly changed, significantly stronger, and better young men.”
Minkel expressed confidence that his long-time assistant will be successful as head coach. “The next year will really be dedicated to making a smooth transition to Coach Chandler. Roger has certainly grown in the coaching profession after coming to Michigan State right after college. He has the essential qualities that you need as a head coach. He has a strong work ethic and possesses the fortitude and ability to stay motivated and focused. Secondly, he’s an outstanding wrestler himself. I don’t think at the collegiate level you can be an effective coach without being a great wrestler yourself, and he still has great technical skills in the wrestling room. Thirdly, you have to be able to teach and communicate with kids who are 18 to 23 years old. Roger is outstanding at that as well.”
The new head coach-designate is appreciative of the opportunity to take the helm of the Spartan mat program. “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. I have been fortunate enough to be alongside Coach Minkel for the past 18 years. He has also given me the opportunity to observe and engage with other coaches from the Big Ten and across the country, which has provided valuable insight on how to lead a Division I wrestling program.”
Minkel was named Michigan State’s head wrestling coach in 1991. During that time, Minkel guided the Spartans to the top 25 at the NCAA championships 13 times and has produced 38 All-Americans, 13 Big Ten champions and two NCAA champions (Kelvin Jackson and Franklin Gomez), according to the “Detroit Free Press”. He is the second-longest serving coach in program history, behind only Fendley Collins (32 seasons from 1930-62). He has the second-most wins in program history, with 171.
Chandler, an NCAA All-American wrestler and Big Ten champ at Indiana University, has considerable coaching experience beyond his time on the MSU mat staff. Chandler serves as the president of the Michigan Youth Wrestling Association (MYWAY) and also the associate executive director of the National United Wrestling Association for Youth (NUWAY). Started in 1998 with 750 members, MYWAY now has more than 9,000 members, while NUWAY — modeling the MYWAY system — has expanded with organizations in 15 states.