Princeton Associate Head Coaches Joe Dubuque (front) and Sean Gray (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Thursday, Brown University announced that head coach Todd Beckerman was stepping down. Beckerman had spent nine seasons at Brown and oversaw the school's fourth All-American in school history among his 12 national qualifiers. With the new head coaching vacancy, it's time to look forward and project some possible coaching candidates. As always, with these types of exercises, we're looking for candidates who actually make sense for the actual job opening. Certain coaches, while great, may not fit in with an Ivy League school like Brown.
So, here are eight great fits for the Brown head coaching job, listed alphabetically.
Brad Dillon (Lehigh)
Lehigh Associate Head Coach Brad Dillon (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Why He Makes Sense: Dillon has been Pat Santoro's right-hand man for the last 17 years. 13 at Lehigh and the previous four at Maryland. While not at an Ivy level, recruiting at Lehigh requires a coach to seek out high-quality student-athletes. The experience at Maryland was basically a rebuild, something that will have to take place at Brown. When Santoro/Dillon left Maryland, the program was on top of a rapidly-improving ACC. Dillon has been in the mix for head coaching jobs in the past and this may be the perfect opportunity for him.
Joe Dubuque (Princeton)
Why He Makes Sense: Cornell proved, almost 20 years ago, that you can win consistently at a high level in the Ivy League. Princeton head coach Chris Ayres saw this and put together one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college athletics, taking Princeton from the bottom of the DI ranks to an Ivy and EIWA title in 2020. Now the program regularly churns out high All-Americans and can recruit with the best in the nation. That means it's time for some of Ayres' pupils to get some shine of their own.
Dubuque has the most credentials, on the mat, of anyone on this list, with a pair of NCAA titles while at Indiana. He also has coached at Hofstra and his alma mater before moving back to his home state and Princeton. Having varying levels of coaching experience comes in handy when it comes to interview time. Dubuque competed and coached in the Big Ten, likely had to be more resourceful while at Hofstra, now has had the opportunity to work around the lofty academic requirements at Princeton. Individually, Dubuque has worked closely with 2022 NCAA runner-up, Pat Glory, one of the Tigers biggest recruits and best performers.
Sean Gray (Princeton)
Why He Makes Sense: Like Dubuque, Sean Gray is a part of the Ayres coaching tree at Princeton and, at some point, his assistants will start getting opportunities to lead their own programs. Gray is the longest-tenured member of the Tiger assistants, having worked with the team for the past 11 years. Prior to being hired at Princeton, Gray was in the New England area as an associate head coach, under the legendary Carl Adams, at Boston University. At the time, Gray was responsible for the more "hands-on" aspects of the Terriers team. With only 50 miles separating Boston and Providence, Gray should have some existing relationships and connections in the New England area with high schools, clubs, and potential donors.
Adam Hall (NC State)
NC State Associate Head Coach Adam Hall (right) (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Why He Makes Sense: People talk about Dan Gable and John Smith's coaching trees; both of which are very impressive in their own rights. NC State head coach Pat Popolizio has one that continues to grow every year. When we spoke with Popolizio last year, he insinuated that "It's not if, but when," Adam Hall gets the chance to lead a program of his own. Hall is the most tenured assistant and instrumental in a program that has notched top-five recruiting classes for each of the last three years. The 2023 class is shaping up to be excellent and could make it four straight.
Like Dubuque, Hall has a resume with a couple of interesting stops. He hails from Idaho and competed at Boise State, earning a pair of All-America honors along the way. His first coaching job came at Columbia, where he spent four years around an Ivy League program. Since the Ivies operate a little differently than the rest of the country, it's good having someone with previous experience on that front. Hall also has had plenty of experience traveling overseas with Wolfpack Wrestling Club, if Brown has aspirations to make more of an impact on the freestyle circuit.
Jordan Leen (Pittsburgh)
Pittsburgh Assistant Coach Jordan Leen (right) (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Why He Makes Sense: We started off with some Princeton flair, now we'll move on to some candidates that have Cornell ties. Jordan Leen was a three-time All-American and 2008 national champion for the school in Ithaca. Leen just finished his fifth year on staff at Pittsburgh, a team that has continued to improve under his and head coach Keith Gavin's direction. While Leen doesn't have direct experience coaching at an Ivy League school, he did spend five years at Virginia and one at Duke, both institutions that have very high academic standards. At Duke, he had to function in a program that doesn't give out wrestling scholarships. During his time at Virginia, and now at Pittsburgh, Leen has earned a reputation as an excellent recruiter. With Cornell, Penn, Princeton, and Columbia now mainstays in the recruiting rankings, getting comparable talent to Providence is imperative.
Troy Nickerson (Northern Colorado)
Northern Colorado head coach Troy Nickerson (left) (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Why He Makes Sense: Nickerson is the lone head coach on our list. He has been at the helm for Northern Colorado since 2014. During that time, Nickerson brought credibility to a program that was often overlooked on the DI scene. The Bears have now moved into the Big 12 and have produced 27 national qualifiers under Nickerson's watch. This past season, Northern Colorado saw their first Big 12 champion crowned, as Andrew Alirez won the title at 141 lbs. Alirez was one of the top recruits in the Class of 2019, a group ranked in the top ten by every service in the country.
Nickerson is a Cornell grad and a four-time All-American (2009 national champion) for then-head coach Rob Koll. He was the first mega-recruit to sign with the Big Red. After graduating, Nickerson stayed on to coach the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club for a year. In addition, before coming to Greeley, Nickerson spent two years on staff at Iowa State under Kevin Jackson. Should Nickerson be interested in leaving Northern Colorado, he could be an interesting candidate for Brown.
Bryan Pearsall (Penn)
Penn Associate Head Coach Bryan Pearsall (Photo/Tony DiMarco)
Why He Makes Sense: So, why Bryan Pearsall makes sense here, also may be why he doesn't, if that's as clear as mud. Pearsall has been alongside Penn head coach Roger Reina, as they have built the Quakers into a program that looks ready to threaten Cornell and Princeton for Ivy and EIWA supremacy. Penn just crowned their first All-American in Reina's second tenure and the fruits of their labor are starting to be realized on the mat. His efforts on the recruiting trail and behind the scenes deserve to be rewarded. However, there's a line of thinking that Pearsall could be next-in-line, once the Penn Hall of Famer, Reina, decides to step aside.
There's a good chance that Pearsall remains in Philadelphia; however, I'd expect a call from Brown, nonetheless. The Bears athletic director, Grace Calhoun, is only in her 13th month on the job. Prior to Brown, Calhoun spent seven years as the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Penn. Oftentimes in athletics (and life, in general), people hire individuals they're familiar with. I assume Calhoun has taken notice of the work that Pearsall, Reina, and the rest of the Penn Wrestling staff have put in while she led the department.
Donnie Vinson (Cornell)
Cornell Associate Head Coach Donnie Vinson (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Why He Makes Sense: Vinson has a couple of ties to individuals and programs we already have mentioned here. Like Hall, Donnie Vinson has learned under Pat Popolizio. First, as a wrestler at Binghamton and later as a coach at NC State. After starting his coaching career at Binghamton, Vinson spent time on the Cornell staff as a volunteer assistant under Rob Koll. Once Mike Grey assumed the reins of the Big Red program, Vinson returned as the associate head coach. It's telling that Vinson was given such a lofty title in such a high-profile program like Cornell. Could a head coaching gig be next?