Two large photographs of Kerry McCoy appear on consecutive pages in Penn State's wrestling media guide, highlighting his success as a wrestler.
Now McCoy, the 1997 Hodge Trophy winner for the most dominating wrestler in the country, appears to be one of many possible candidates for the vacant head coaching position at his alma mater.
With the resignation of head coach Troy Sunderland this weekend, the athletic department said it will open up a national search to find a new head coach. Penn State spokesman Pat Donghia said there is no timetable on completing the search, but a national search will commence.
Former Penn State head coach Rich Lorenzo said he feels Penn State should "go to the top programs in the United States and see if any of those coaches are interested."
While Lorenzo said the country's top coaches -- Iowa's Tom Brands, Oklahoma State's John Smith, Ohio State's Tom Ryan, Minnesota's J Robinson and Iowa State's Cael Sanderson -- would not likely leave their positions, the former Lion coach said it is definitely worth making a comprehensive nationwide search.
"There are a heck of a lot of other schools with their coaches doing a heck of a job with not the same kind of tradition and support [as Penn State]," Lorenzo said Sunday.
McCoy said he had not been contacted by the university and doesn't like to handle the "what-ifs" before they occur, but he said he would have a decision to make if Penn State did contact him.
"Without a doubt, Penn State has always been a place that I coached there for a few years and I loved coaching there and it'd be a dream to be the head coach there," McCoy said Monday in a telephone interview. "At the same time, I'm very happy here at Maryland and we had a very successful end of the season and we have a lot of good things going on here so, I don't know, it's one of those things. It's a tough situation."
McCoy was named ACC Coach of the Year this season after leading the Terrapins to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Tournament in his first season as head coach. McCoy is Penn State's only two-time NCAA champion, winning a title his sophomore and senior seasons. The current Maryland coach also finished seventh at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and fifth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Penn State is located in the heart of what many call the most talented wrestling state in the country, so a main focus for the future Lions coach will be keeping Pennsylvania talent in-state.
Kenny Courts, a PIAA state finalist as a high school sophomore this season, said bringing in a big name coach from a successful program would revive a lot of interest in Penn State as a destination for Pennsylvania wrestlers. Courts said McCoy sent him a letter of interest from Maryland. The Central Dauphin grappler is considering Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Maryland and Penn State.
"A lot of recruits are going to schools in different states," Courts said Monday in a telephone interview. "But I think with a new coach a lot more of them will go to Penn State before going to other colleges outside of the state."
Potential coaching candidates such as Edinboro's head coach Tim Flynn, Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro and assistant John Hughes and Olympian Ken Chertow would have good background on recruiting the state of Pennsylvania. Hughes and Santoro are former Nittany Lion assistant coaches, and Flynn and Chertow were All-Americans at Penn State. With ties to Penn State, these candidates could have an upper hand in recruiting the state.
McCoy said being an assistant at Penn State taught him a lot about wrestling but also gave him the opportunity to be a part of a national contender every season. The Lions placed in the top 5 at nationals in each of his seasons as a wrestler and helped lead his alma mater to a top-10 finish at nationals in each of his three seasons as an assistant coach.
"It's an opportunity to coach a team to a national championship and that's a thing that I've always aspired to do as a coach," McCoy said. "I loved coaching there because I had so much support and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the Penn State program and the support. We have the opportunity to do it here at Maryland, but a place like Penn State always has the opportunity to be in the top 5. It's got the potential to be a national power and it's got the potential to be back to what it was in years past and where it should always be."
When reached by telephone Monday, Cornell head coach Rob Koll, son of legendary Penn State coach Bill Koll, said he is "really happy" and wouldn't consider leaving, although he joked it might excite his family. Koll has won 10 Ivy League titles and coached four national champions in his 16 seasons at Cornell.
Iowa assistant coach Terry Brands, twin brother of the Hawkeyes' head coach, has been sought after by programs like Wyoming in the past for its head coaching spot. Brands did not return a phone call as of press time Monday.
Jim Zalesky, a three-time national champion as coach at Iowa and a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, said he is currently "not really" looking for a job but knows how intriguing a job in Happy Valley would be.
The current Oregon State head coach said Penn State should look for a replacement similar to Lorenzo, who coached the Lions when he wrestled against Penn State as a Hawkeye.
"I think Penn State is a job that everybody is going to look at," Zalesky said Monday in a telephone interview. "Big Ten jobs are some of the best jobs out there. Being in the Big Ten, coaching there, it's always great going to Rec Hall to wrestle in that environment."
Zalesky said Lorenzo's wrestlers were "always great competitors on the mat and gentlemen off the mat," and Lorenzo said he aspires for the program to return to prominence.
"It's time for the wrestling program now to get excited and get a new coach and a new direction and hopefully get us back into the top-5 in the country on pretty much an annual basis," Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo, one of the most successful coaches in Penn State history and the namesake for the Lions' practice facility, said one of the most important attributes a head coach should have is commitment and devotion to every aspect of the program.
"Wrestling has to be that person's life," he said. "It's not a job, it's not a sometime passion. You got to live it. If you look at success in any one of the major sports, the coaches that are most successful are the ones who are out working harder than their opponents. A coach has to realize he's not the only one who can run this program but he must direct this program and get a lot of partners to assistant him on staff. They have to be excited about helping young people achieve high goals."