Dan Wirnsberger, who officially became the 15th coach of the Bucknell wrestling program on May 10, 2005, enters his 12th year at the helm of the Orange and Blue in 2016-17.
Hired to guide Bucknell’s program back into the national spotlight after a four-year hiatus where it was not a varsity sport, Wirnsberger has succeeded and currently ranks second on the Bison career wins list with 98. Wirnsberger has accumulated 124 victories in his career, which includes 26 wins in three seasons at Bloomsburg. His 100th career victory came in December 2014 at the Grapple at the Garden against Hofstra.
Wirnsberger is leading the Bison through one of the most successful stretches in program history. The Bison have won double-figure dual matches for three straight years for the first time in school annals, have back-to-back third-place finishes at the EIWA Championships and the most recent senior class graduated with 43 dual wins, the second-most among any Bison class.
The 2014-15 season may have been the best under Wirnsberger’s direction. The Bison won a school-record 15 dual matches, including 10 in a row at one point, had six EIWA placewinners and four NCAA qualifiers. The squad appeared in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, climbing to as high as 22nd in December. Wirnsberger earned EIWA Coach of the Year honors as he led Bucknell to a third-place finish at the conference championships, the best in school history.
Bucknell followed that historic season with a 12-6 dual record, six EIWA placewinners and a program-record-tying six NCAA qualifiers in 2015-16.
Sixteen different Bison have combined for 34 NCAA Championships berths under Wirnsberger’s guidance, while Andy Rendos and current assistant coach Kevin LeValley each became two-time All-Americans. Bucknell has finished at least .500 five times and has recorded at least a .500 record against difficult EIWA competition seven times under Wirnsberger.
After spending a transitional year recruiting and laying the groundwork for a successful program, Wirnsberger brought Bucknell back onto the mat in 2006-07 with flying colors.
Under Wirnsberger’s direction, the 2006-07 Bison returned to the mat in grand fashion, setting a then-school record for dual-meet victories by compiling a record of 12-9-1, 3-3-1 in the EIWA, including a 17-16 win over nationally ranked Columbia. At the EIWA tournament, he led the Orange and Blue to a ninth-place finish out of 14 schools and saw three Bucknell grapplers earn bids to the NCAA Championships.
Facing a tougher schedule in its second season back as a varsity program at Bucknell, Wirnsberger helped the squad to a 9-11-1 mark in 2007-08. The Bison posted a 4-4 record against EIWA competition. Once again, three wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships and Bucknell moved up one spot to eighth place at the competitive EIWA Championships.
The Bison program took a major stride forward in 2008-09 as Wirnsberger guided Bucknell to a tie for third at the EIWA Championships and helped a school-record six wrestlers earn NCAA berths. Additionally, Andy Rendos became the first Bison to earn All-America honors in 14 years as he placed fifth at NCAAs in the 165-pound weight class. As a team, Bucknell registered 11 wins, giving it a three-year win total of 32, the best stretch in program history.
More milestones were accomplished in 2009-10 as Wirnsberger saw two of his wrestlers earn All-America honors, marking a first for the program. The Bison also tied a school record with 12 victories and finished with an unbeaten EIWA mark. Wirnsberger guided the team to its second consecutive top-five finish at the EIWA Championships as it claimed fourth in the team standings. Highlighting the weekend was Rendos’ individual title in the 165-pound bracket, making him the first EIWA champion in program history.
Wirnsberger helped LeValley duplicate Rendos’ feat by winning the 149-pound EIWA title and earn his second consecutive All-America citation in 2010-11. He won the EIWA crown at Sojka Pavilion as Wirnsberger oversaw a program that successfully hosted one of the major conference tournaments in the country.
The 2011-12 Bison were ravaged by injuries as six projected starters missed significant time during the campaign. Still, there were plenty of positives for Wirnsberger and the young Bucknell squad that featured just one senior as Corey Lear and Austin Miller became first-time NCAA participants.
The 2012-13 Bucknell squad again experienced a number of injuries, but Lear and Joe Stolfi still earned berths to the NCAA Championships. The unseeded Stolfi peaked at the right time of year and came just one victory shy of All-America honors.
Stolfi and Paul Petrov represented the Bison at NCAAs in 2013-14 and a young roster improved significantly as the year progressed, setting the stage for the 2014-15 campaign, which was one of the most successful in program history. Stolfi and Petrov were joined at NCAAs by freshmen Tom Sleigh and Tyler Smith in 2015, while that quartet was bolstered by senior Rustin Barrick and junior Victor Lopez in 2016.
A three-time wrestling All-American at Michigan State University, Wirnsberger previously served as the head coach of Bloomsburg University’s Division I program from 2002 to 2005. As head coach of the Huskies, Wirnsberger qualified 10 student-athletes for the NCAA Tournament, including six in 2005, his final season at the helm, and he coached the program’s first-ever Olympic Trials qualifier. He helped four Bloomsburg wrestlers capture Eastern Wrestling League titles and six win PSAC crowns. Named the 2005 PSAC Coach of the Year after leading the Huskies to the team title for the first time since 1990, Wirnsberger’s recruiting classes were ranked 14th and 19th, respectively, in 2003 and 2004, while his first two recruiting classes at Bucknell were ranked 14th and 25th by Wrestling International Newsmagazine (W.I.N.). In 2004-05, Bloomsburg posted a 10-6 dual-meet record (4-2 EWL) and crowned three EWL champions while finishing fifth at the league tournament.
Prior to becoming head coach of the Huskies, Wirnsberger spent six years as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, where he helped coach a team that featured three All-Americans and finished in the top-25 at the NCAA Tournament in 2000 (19th) and 2001 (23rd). The Hokies qualified a school-record five wrestlers for NCAAs in 2000, and the following year the program was invited to compete at the National Team Duals at Penn State.
At both Bloomsburg and Virginia Tech, Wirnsberger gained extensive experience in the areas of national recruiting, fundraising and summer camp administration.
A 1995 graduate of Michigan State with a degree in criminal justice, Wirnsberger posted a 35-8 record and was the Big Ten Champion and NCAA runner-up at 158 pounds in 1995. That was his third of three straight All-America plaques, and he earned team Most Valuable Wrestler honors. Overall in his career, Wirnsberger compiled a record of 120-44, the third-most wins in school history. In NCAA competition, he logged 11 victories for the Spartans in three trips to nationals. During his career at Michigan State, the team went from a struggling program to a 12th-place national ranking his sophomore year, 25th his junior year and third in the nation his senior season.
A three-year captain of the Spartans, Wirnsberger continued his wrestling career at the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club while training for the 1997 World Team Trials. He qualified for the trials after placing sixth at the USA Senior Freestyle Tournament, his first senior competition. Participating at a higher weight class of 167 pounds, Wirnsberger defeated such renowned opponents as two-time NCAA champion Marcus Mollica of Arizona State and Iowa’s NCAA champion Darryl Weber.
Wirnsberger began his coaching career with the Mason (Mich.) Youth Wrestling Program. He later moved back to his native South Carolina, where he served as head wrestling coach at Greer High School. In addition to his head coaching duties, Wirnsberger was the junior varsity football coach and taught classes for autistic students at Greer Middle School.
Wirnsberger resides in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Dana, a former athletic trainer at Bucknell, and their three sons, Cade (12), Max (9) and Chase (7).