University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling is THE premier program in the region and has the tradition and following that is comparable to any other in the country. The Mocs dominate the Southern Conference year after year, winning 24 titles in the last 32 seasons.
Chattanooga is currently riding a string of five consecutive SoCon Championships and coming off a 12-10 season in 2008-09. UTC looks to return nine of 10 starters to its line-up that includes one former All-American and SoCon Wrestler of the Year, the SoCon Freshman of the Year, five NCAA qualifiers and four All-SoCon wrestlers.
When the head coaching position became available in June, following Chris Bono’s resignation, UTC’s Director of Athletics Rick Hart knew that all of the aforementioned accolades would attract attention from top-quality candidates from all over the country.
When the position was officially opened, applications poured in from everywhere. Hart and his search committee patiently and painstakingly sifted through the pile of resumes, vitae and letters of recommendations of some very qualified candidates.
“Because we have such a strong tradition of comprehensive excellence in our wrestling program at UTC, we knew that this was going to be a coaching search conducted on a national scale,” stated Hart. “We knew that the position would attract some top candidates, but we owed it to our student-athletes, alumni and wrestling supporters to make sure that no stone was left unturned when looking for the right person to guide our program.”
After the intensive national search was finished, it was clear to Hart that the man for the job was right here in the Mocs’ backyard. Saturday, Hart introduced UTC alumni and former wrestler Heath Eslinger as the 11th head coach of the Chattanooga Mocs Wrestling program. The announcement was made in the McKenzie Arena’s Hall of Fame Room in front of more than 60 alumni, fans, supporters and media.
“This is a great opportunity for me and my family,” stated Eslinger. “The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga means a lot to me and the Mocs wrestling program means a lot to me. I am very thankful for the opportunity to lead this program and get it going in the right direction.”
Eslinger, a 2000 graduate of UTC with a degree in Exercise Science, Health and Leisure Studies, brings over seven years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and high school levels. He spent the last three years building Cleveland High School Wrestling in nearby Cleveland, Tenn., into one of the top programs in the state. He also spent two years as an assistant coach at Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, helping that program to state titles both seasons.
A three-time SoCon Champion and the 2000 SoCon Wrestler of the Year, Eslinger left UTC as the all-time leader in wins with a career record of 120-18. His 120 victories still rank second on the Mocs all-time list.
This is not Eslinger’s first return to the collegiate coaching ranks at his alma mater. He served as an assistant coach for the Mocs for two seasons under Terry Brands from 2002-04.
Eslinger is now the third former Moc to return to UTC as a current head coach. Both football coach Russ Huesman and men’s golf coach Mark Guhne are graduates of UTC. Eslinger’s proven track record as a wrestling coach, ties to the community, first-hand knowledge of the passion and tradition involved with UTC wrestling alumni and his desire to bring excellence to the Mocs’ are all reason why he is the perfect fit to lead the program for years to come.
Heath Eslinger – Chattanooga Mocs Head Wrestling Coach Biography
Heath Eslinger (pronounced ESS-leen-guhr) was named the 11th head coach of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling program on July 11, 2009. A former Southern Conference Wrestler of the Year and UTC alum, Eslinger brings over seven years of experience in coaching at both the collegiate and high school levels.
Eslinger spent the last three seasons building the Cleveland High School wrestling program in Cleveland, Tenn., into one of the premier programs in the state. The Blue Raiders finished in the top-3 in the state duals and traditional standings in each of the last two seasons. Last year, he had Cleveland ranked as high as No. 9 in the southeast region while guiding a school-record six wrestlers to state placings, including three finalists.
During his time at Cleveland High School, Eslinger was able to successfully raise money for the program. He also helped build a $250,000 weight training facility for the school. He raised the profile of the wrestling program in the community by more than doubling the size of the roster since his arrival. He was also a well-respected physical education teacher at the high school.
Prior to his time at Cleveland High School, Eslinger spent two years as a student pastor at First Baptist Church in Cleveland. His responsibilities dealt with all aspects of a mega-church student ministry. He orchestrated events and camps for over 250 students and organized leaders and curricula for each.
Eslinger gained valuable collegiate coaching experience as an assistant at UTC under Terry Brands from 2002-04. There he learned the ins and outs of recruiting, fundraising, budgets and the overall administration of a collegiate athletic program.
Fresh out of college, Eslinger returned to his high school alma mater, Bradley Central in Cleveland, for his first coaching experience. As an assistant for the Bears, he helped guide Bradley Central to state titles in 2001 and 2002. He also served as an elementary physical education teacher in Bradley County school system.
Eslinger won four letters with the Mocs from 1995-2000. He posted a 120-18 all-time record, winning three Southern Conference titles and qualifying for the NCAA Championships three times. His 120 wins broke the school’s all-time record and is still the second highest win total in UTC history.
Respected by his teammates, Eslinger was tabbed as team captain all four years of his collegiate career. He was the Southern Conference Wrestler of the Year in 2000 and the SoCon Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler that same season. His senior year he climbed as high as No. 6 in the nation.
Eslinger’s prep career was just as impressive and included two state titles at Bradley Central High School. He was captain of the first team to win a state title for the Bears and the 1995 TSSAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Eslinger and his wife, Brandi, have three daughters, Brookelyn (4) and twins, Madelyn and Keelyn (2). He is very involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and won the organization’s Jim Slater Leadership Award in 2008. In 2007, he earned the FCA’s Gerry Stephens Influence Award. A noted speaker, Eslinger has also been featured at camps and events all across the southeast for the past five years, including groups of up to 2,000 at a time.