CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Mark Wharton announced the resignation of wrestling head coach Heath Eslinger on Thursday. Eslinger, who spent nine seasons as head coach of his alma mater, informed Wharton of his decision this morning.
“It was always my hope that Heath Eslinger spend the rest of his career leading our wrestling program,” stated Wharton. “He is an outstanding coach and an even better human being. We are certainly going to miss him.
“As most of us know, he has become a sought-after public speaker and coaching mentor. He has an opportunity to couple that with his faith and follow a new career path. We wish him and his family nothing but the best as they embark on this new journey.”
Eslinger was hired on July 11, 2009, and went on to win six Southern Conference titles in nine seasons. He has a career record of 101-61 (.623), including an amazing 53-5 (.914) mark in SoCon matches.
He was twice named the SoCon Coach of the Year (2011, 2013), and has coached two SoCon Wrestlers of the Year, two SoCon Championship MVPs and three SoCon Freshmen of the Year. The Mocs have also brought home 25 individual league titles in this tenure.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough for the university, this department, our alumni and all of our student-athletes and coaches for the privilege of leading this program,” stated Eslinger. “I have truly been blessed to be able to lead this team and be around such great people.
“I am not leaving one thing, but rather running toward something that has been a passion of mine for several years. I will do everything I can to help move this program forward and position it for success in the future. I believe the best days are ahead for Chattanooga wrestling and I know our administration is in full support.
“My children have grown up here and we are grateful for the friends, colleagues, parents and many others who have made this special for all of us. I look forward to seeing what the future holds here and can’t wait to see how God uses my family in the future.”
The Mocs have been at the forefront of the promotion of collegiate wrestling during Eslinger’s tenure with the creation of the “Chattanooga Strong” brand. His aggressive marketing approach helped UTC set attendance records in Maclellan Gym, including a sold-out crowd (2,639) for the Iowa match in 2013.
Eslinger orchestrated the move of the Southern Scuffle to Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena in 2012. The Southern Scuffle has grown into the top in-season collegiate tournament in the nation.
There has also been a marked improvement in the classroom under Eslinger’s watch. The Mocs have finished in the top 10 in the nation in team grade point average among wrestling programs three times and topped a 3.0 GPA as a team for the first time in the fall of 2016. They repeated that feat with another 3.0 semester in the fall of 2017.
“Kyle Ruschell will serve as the interim head coach and we will begin a national search for a replacement immediately,” added Wharton. “Like all of our positions at Chattanooga, I fully expect to receive interest from highly qualified candidates from across the country. Coach Eslinger carried on the outstanding tradition of Chattanooga wrestling, and I look forward to finding the next person who is the right fit to lead our program.”