Michael Poeta (right) with head wrestling coach Jim Heffernan
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois wrestling head coach Jim Heffernan announced the addition of former Illini Mike Poeta to his coaching staff on Tuesday afternoon. A three-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champion, Poeta will join current assistant coach Jeremy Hunter on the Fighting Illini wrestling staff, pending completion of university hiring processes and Board of Trustees approval.
It is with great pride that we announce Mike Poeta will be returning to Illinois as our new assistant coach," Head Coach Jim Heffernan said of the hire. "Mike is one of our all-time greats, and has built a highly successful wrestling club that reflects his talents as a coach. and most importantly, he is an Illini that cares first and foremost about the betterment of our program. Mike has proven that he can build relationships and trust with student athletes; he is very knowledgeable and an outstanding teacher. He will be an active participant in the overall development of our student athletes and understands that everyone involved in our program is a resource, rather than just a commodity."
"I'm excited to have Mike back and I know our guys will respond extremely well to Mike's positive leadership abilities," said Coach Heffernan. "I can't wait for him to have the opportunity to meet the team and share his enthusiasm about calling Champaign home again. From a personal perspective, I have great trust in Mike, a strong belief in his approach and look forward to the impact he will have on our program."
Poeta returns to the University of Illinois following five years as the owner and head coach of the Poeta Training Center in Lake Forest, Illinois. During its inaugural year, Team Poeta grew from 40 wrestlers to 200 wrestlers. Since then, the training center has produced 19 high school and junior high state champions.
"This is a dream job, and I feel so lucky to part of this great program and great group of young men," said Poeta. "I have an amazing mentor in Jim Heffernan and so much admiration for Jeremy Hunter, both guys that coached me at Illinois. It's going to be fun learning from, and working along side, them."
As the former owner of the team and training center, Mike Poeta brings both administrative and coaching experience to the Illinois staff. Financially, Poeta managed the clubs' budget and the payroll for its 10 assistant coaches, while also directing fundraising events for non-profit organizations that benefit young wrestlers in the Chicago area. Additionally, Poeta has built strong connections with some of the top high school athletes and coaches in the state of the Illinois through various recruiting combines and clinics.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of continuing to make Illinois wrestling a dynasty, developing champions on and off the mat, and keeping all of our great Illinois high school wrestlers in the state of Illinois," continued Poeta. "I'm excited for this opportunity, motivated, and ready to get on the mat with the wrestlers. Everything is just talk right now and we have to get to work and go out and perform."
Prior to creating the Poeta Training Center, Mike Poeta spent three years wrestling professionally. In 2010, Poeta represented the United States at the 2010 World Cup in Moscow, Russia. Two years later, Poeta competed at 2012 Olympic Trials.
A 157-pounder from 2004-2008 for the Illini, Poeta became one of the most successful wrestlers in Fighting Illini history and was a member of Illinois' 2005 Big Ten championship team. Individually, Poeta was a three-time All-American, two-time NCAA finalist and two-time Big Ten champion. Poeta left Illinois ranked second all-time in career win percentage, and currently ranks. Poeta graduated from the College of Applied Health Sciences with a bachelor's degree in community health in 2009.
A native of Highwood, Illinois, Poeta was rated the No. 1 pound-for-pound high school recruit in 2004 after winning three High School National Championships and two IHSA state championships.