Over the span of the past 34 years, coach Craig Turnbull has built the West Virginia University wrestling program into one of the strongest and most accomplished wrestling programs in the nation. The four-time Eastern Wrestling League Coach of Year has been at the forefront of five individual national champions, 26 of the program’s 29 All-Americans, 42 EWL champions and more than 160 NCAA Championships qualifiers.
In addition, Turnbull, who is the seventh-winningest active coach in the NCAA with 274 dual meet victories, has been at the helm for each of the Mountaineers’ six EWL conference titles as well as 12 top-25 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Few coaches can equate with to the success that Turnbull has had with the Mountaineers, as his five individual national champions produced tie him for seventh among active coaches.
One of Turnbull’s brightest pupils is current associate head coach and three-time national champion Greg Jones. Jones became the first athlete in WVU history to claim multiple NCAA titles. As a freshman in 2002, Jones won the NCAA title at 174 pounds before moving up to 184 pounds as a junior in 2004. In 2005, Turnbull’s guidance led Jones to his third national championship as the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.
Along with Jones, national champions who wrestled under the watchful eye of Turnbull are Dean Morrison (1994) and Scott Collins (1991).
Turnbull leads WVU into what may be its biggest transition in program history, as it moves into the nation’s premier wrestling conference – the Big 12.
The Mountaineers are coming off a season in which they were 9-4 in dual meets and 4-2 in the EWL, including a win at No. 10 Edinboro. In addition, WVU had three wrestlers win EWL titles – the most since 2006 – and had six wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Championships. Of the six qualifiers, four return, while Turnbull has yet again put together a strong, deep recruiting class.
In 2002, on the heels of consecutive nationally ranked recruiting classes, Turnbull assembled one of the best teams in school history going 12-2, including 7-0 in EWL dual matches, claiming the EWL regular-season and tournament titles for the first time in school history, a 13th-place finish at the NCAA tournament and producing one national champion.
In 2005, Turnbull’s squad claimed its sixth EWL dual meet championship after posting a 4-1-1 conference mark. Along with Jones winning a national championship, Turnbull guided junior Matt Lebe to All-America status at 157 pounds when Lebe knocked off Stanford’s defending national champion Matt Gentry.
In 2006 and 2007, Turnbull tutored Brandon Rader to a pair of sixth-place finishes to become the program’s sixth multiple All-American.
The team enjoyed a tremendous two-year stretch in 1990-91 as it recorded a 25-6 record, won back-to-back EWL dual meet crowns, finished sixth at the 1991 NCAA Championships and recorded an eighth-place finish at the 1991 national dual meet championships. It was also during those two seasons that Scott Collins won the 142-pound national championship and Mark Banks won consecutive All-America honors.
In 1990, Turnbull was tabbed as the EWL’s Coach of the Yefor the first time as the Mountaineers captured the Eastern Mat Poll, the first time WVU won the prize signifying the East's best wrestling school. Turnbull was named to coach one of the teams at the National Wrestling Coaches' Association All-Star Classic in 1992, a match that pits the nation's No. 1 and 2 ranked wrestlers against each other.
In 1996, the Mountaineers’ victory over Duquesne earned Turnbull his 156th win and made him West Virginia's all-time winningest wrestling coach, eclipsing Steve Harrick's mark of 155 wins.
Turnbull’s 1998 squad secured the team’s third EWL dual title, as he was named the conference coach of the year.
In 1999, Turnbull led the Mountaineers to a school-best 54 points at the NCAA tournament to place ninth. It was the second year in a row the Mountaineers placed in the top 10 at the NCAAs.
Turnbull helped guide Vertus Jones to four EWL championships and Jones became just the third EWL wrestler ever to win four conference titles. He was also the first Mountaineer grappler to become a three-time All-American.
Turnbull's appointment as coach of the Mountaineers in 1979 came one season after the Mountaineers' entrance into the highly-competitive Eastern Wrestling League.
Inheriting a team that posted a 10-26 mark the two years prior to his arrival, Turnbull did not wait long before guiding WVU to success. During his first season, the team produced a 9-4-2 record, a feat that earned him Division I NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year honors.
The decade, which included six 10-plus win seasons, saw Turnbull begin to build the foundation for a nationally-respected program through the development of his first All-Americans – Jim Akerly and Michael Carr.
WVU Wrestling Pavilion
One of the driving forces behind the dominance of the Mountaineer wrestling program is the WVU Wrestling Pavilion, which Turnbull was instrumental in planning.
The $1.4 million building – built in 2006 – boasts four mats, an aerobic room, coaches’ offices and a study center with a players’ lounge.
Besides the practice area, the crown jewel of the complex is the players' lounge. Built in the shape of a wrestling mat, the lounge features a big screen television for watching film, and plenty of room for relaxing between classes. A drop down screen in the ceiling is used for studying match film before and after practices.
To top off the project, WVU was home to the United States Olympic Team wrestlers training for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a feat made possible by USA Wrestling and the Sunkist Kids.
Prior to Becoming Head Coach
As a student-athlete, Turnbull was an All-American at Clarion in 1973 and boasted a career record of 87-14-2. Following his standout career there, Turnbull entered the coaching realm with a stint at Strong Vincent High in Erie, Pa. From 1976-1978, Turnbull was an assistant coach at WVU under Frank Liechti and in 1979, he became the seventh coach in the history of the West Virginia wrestling program.
Turnbull graduated from Clarion in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in special education and later received his master’s degree in sports psychology and counseling psychology from WVU in 1978.
Turnbull and his wife, Sue, reside in Morgantown. They have two children, Carrie and Kyle.
|Coach Turnbull's Record|
|1990||West Virginia||14-1 (EWL Title)|
|1991||West Virginia||11-5 (EWL Title)|
|1998||West Virginia||11-3-1 (EWL Title)|
|2002||West Virginia||12-2 (EWL Title)|
|2003||West Virginia||9-3 (EWL Title)|