Illinois wrestling coach Jim Heffernan announces retirement

Ryan Ash

Jim Heffernan, Illinois head wrestling coach, shakes hands with a wrestler after a match against Purdue on January 22nd. Heffernan has just announced his retirement after 29 years in the Illinois wrestling program.

From Will Payne, assistant sports editor

After a total of 29 years in the University of Illinois’ wrestling program, head coach Jim Heffernan has announced his retirement.

During his time with the Illinois Heffernan led the wrestling program to a whopping 13 top 10 finishes in the NCAA championships. During his time in Champagne, he had the pleasure of training not just 73 All-Americans but 11 individual NCAA champions.

One of the youngest outstanding athletes in his coaching career was Isaiah Martinez. Martinez set a 35-0 record in the 2015 season, becoming the first wrestler to go undefeated by a freshman since 1999. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Heffernan trained Jesse Delgado for consecutive NCAA titles.

Prior to his role as a trainer, Heffernan attended the University of Iowa. He was four times All American with the Hawkeyes and set a career record of 131-18-2.

After college, Heffernan began his coaching career as an assistant at Iowa in 1988 before moving to various jobs at Lehigh University and Oregon State. Heffernan eventually followed former Illinois head coach Mark Johnson to Champaign and never looked back.

“I am grateful to the University of Illinois, Josh Whitman, and the entire Intercollegiate Athletics Department for the opportunity to be part of the Illinois community for more than half of my life,” said Heffernan. “For the past 29 years, Rebecca and I have lived, worked, and raised our children here and it really has become home.”

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