Kenny Anderson (Photo/Getty Images)
Kenny Anderson, three-time NCAA Division III wrestling champ for Wartburg College less than a decade ago, passed away Sunday, October 20 in New Orleans where he was living. He was 29.
Anderson won three straight NCAA titles for the Waverly, Iowa-based Division III mat powerhouse, claiming the 125-pound championship at the 2012 NCAAs, then back-to-back crowns at 133 in 2013 and 2014. In his mat career as a Knights wrestler, Anderson crafted a 76-3 overall record, and served as team captain as a senior, helping lead his team to three D3 team titles.
Not much is known at this time about Anderson's passing. Here's what sportswriter Jim Nelson of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier wrote: "According to the limited information that wrestling hall of famer Jim Miller and current Wartburg College head wrestling coach Eric Keller have learned of the situation is that Anderson was found unconscious in his residence in New Orleans by a roommate Sunday morning."
Keller learned of Anderson's death in a phone call from former Wartburg wrestler Steven Kleamenakis, a native of New Orleans. Kleamenakis' brother was a roommate of Anderson's in Louisiana's largest city, where he was about to start his first season as co-head wrestling coach at Holy Cross High School, a New Orleans school which had sent a number of its wrestlers to Wartburg.
"Total shock and disbelief ... it is hard to process right now," Keller told Nelson's Courier. "He was loved for who he was on the mat and who he was off the mat."
"He was 29. I'm in shock," added Jim Miller, who was Wartburg's head coach when Anderson arrived in Waverly.
"I'm truly at a loss for words. I'll never forget you Kenny. You will be deeply missed. Prayers for the Anderson Family," T.J. Miller posted on Facebook.
After his on-the-mat career, Anderson launched his coaching career ... first as an assistant Wartburg, then more recently, at Cornell College, a Division III school in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Here's the message Wartburg wrestling posted on its Twitter account:
"The entire Wartburg Wrestling family is shocked and heartbroken over the news of Kenny Anderson's passing," the school said in a release. "Kenny was one of our greats (three-time NCAA champion) and one of the fiercest competitors to put on our singlet.
"We send our deepest prayers and sincerest thoughts to his family, his friends, and the entire wrestling community. He will be greatly missed and his time with our program treasured and never forgotten."
Anderson's death reminded Wartburg wrestling fans of the passing of another Knight mat great, Aaron Wernimont, who passed away suddenly in 2012 at age 26. Wernimont's birthday was Oct. 20 ... the date of Anderson's passing.
Prior to coming to Wartburg, Kenny Anderson had wrestled at Billerica High School outside Boston, where he won three Massachusetts state mat titles, and won the New England title at 119 pounds in 2008. He was inducted into the State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011.
"I feel very badly for Kenny, he's a great kid who was moving in the right direction in life," Anderson's high school coach, Bob Belanger, told the Boston Herald. "He was very passionate about the sport. He had a great work ethic."
Funeral arrangements for Kenneth (Kenny) J. Anderson have been announced. Visiting hours will be held Friday, October 25 from 3-7 p.m. at the Sweeney Memorial Home, 66 Concord Rd., in Anderson's hometown of Billerica, Massachusetts. A funeral mass will take place Saturday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. at St. Theresa Church, 466 Boston Rd., Billerica at 10 a.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in Kenneth's name to the Billerica Scholarship Foundation, 365 Boston Rd., Billerica, MA 01821. Burial in Fox Hill Cemetery, Billerica.