Chattanooga wrestling icons Morgan, Farr pass away on same day

Jim Morgan with All-Americans Randy Batten, John Kavelage, David Weeks and Turner Jackson

Jim Morgan and John Farr -- two men who shared University of Tennessee Chattanooga wrestling heritage and made major contributions to the sport in the Volunteer State and beyond -- both died Friday, January 18, just hours apart.

One man who knew them both was Steve Highlander, who wrestled for Morgan at UTC and followed Farr as the Central High coach.

"Both of them were pioneers in wrestling in Tennessee and the South and made major impacts on the lives of many young men and coaches," Highlander told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

Former UTC mat coach Jim Morgan

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach, professor and athletic administrator Jim Morgan passed away Friday afternoon. He was 80.

Morgan guided the Mocs' wrestling program for 16 seasons, from 1969 to 1983, posting a career record of 209-70-3, making him the winningest coach in UTC wrestling history.

A 1992 inductee into the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame, Morgan was the 1975 NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year when he led the Mocs to a third-place finish at the national tournament, and runners-up in the team standings the following year. He coached three individuals to NCAA Division II titles, including Randy Batten (1975-77), Turner Jackson (1975-76) and David Weeks (1976).

Morgan helped guide the Mocs in the transition to the Southern Conference and NCAA Division I. With Morgan at the helm, UTC claimed the conference crown its first six years as members of the SoCon... while Morgan earned Coach of the Year honors in 1978, 1981 and 1983.

"I was fortunate enough to meet Coach Morgan and even though I have not been here long, I fully understand the impact he had on Chattanooga Wrestling," UTC first-year head coach Kyle Ruschell said in a tribute to Morgan on the official Mocs wrestling website . "He was a legend in the wrestling community and set the foundation for our program that still feels his impact 34 years after he coached his last match at UTC."

"Jim Morgan, in his decades of coaching, has positively affected thousands of wrestlers, wrestling coaches and the great sport of wrestling" stated UTC's Director of Athletic Performance Ethan Reeve. Reeve succeeded Morgan as coach of the Mocs from 1985-90.

George McIntyre, long-time wrestling official who wrestled for Morgan at UTC in the 1970s, took the passing of his college coach hard.

"I was on the phone with several of my teammates from the 1970's," McIntyre told InterMat Saturday afternoon. "The news didn't hit me until last night. I didn't sleep a minute... I talked to him at least every other week the last couple years."

"Jim was also the tennis coach at UTC and my brother played for him the same time I was on the wrestling team. We were very close..."

"During my brother's and my time there we always had a big home-cooked breakfast Sunday morning at our house. Tennis players and wrestlers along with Coach Morgan showed up every Sunday."

After retiring as UTC head coach, Jim Morgan served as an Assistant Athletic Director at the school... then took over the Baylor School wrestling program in 1986. His teams won nine state traditional championships, six state duals championships before he retired in 2010.

Jim Morgan's introduction to the oldest and greatest sport came as a student at the McCallie School outside Chattanooga, an all-boys prep school where he had earned admission thanks to an anonymous scholarship.

"I had hoped to be a boxer, but the Mid South Conference dropped boxing as a varsity sport during my ninth grade (1952-53) year so I had to look for another sport," Morgan said in a 2010 interview.

"I didn't want to play soccer (an outdoor winter sport in those days), could only dog paddle in the pool so swimming was not an option and I did not have the height for basketball, so my last choice was wrestling.''

Thus the beginning of Morgan's long relationship with the sport.

Funeral arrangements for Jim Morgan have yet to be announced.

UTC mat alum John Farr

John Farr, a wrestler at the University of Chattanooga (now UTC) in the 1950s who launched a number of high school wrestling programs in the Chattanooga area, died Friday morning at age 84.

Farr started the wrestling program at Red Bank High School, as well as those at Chattanooga Central and Sale Creek. At Red Bank, Farr led the program to a then-record three consecutive Tennessee state wrestling championships. He also launched the mat program at Chattanooga State Community College.

Beyond his on-the-mat and coaching experience, Farr directed state tournaments, officiated NCAA Division I tournaments and served on the High School National Federation Wrestling Rules Committee and advisory boards. He retired from Chattanooga State Community College as head of the humanity department. John was a member of three halls of fame: Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame, TSSAA (Tennessee State Scholastic Athletic Association) and the Tennessee Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Farr also served in the U.S. Army for 30 years.

Visitation for John Farr is 4-8 p.m. on Monday and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, 5401 Highway 153, in Hixson, Tenn. A Celebration of Life service is 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home.

Contributions may be made in John's name to the Wrestling Coaches Scholarship Fund.


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