COLUMBIA — The Missouri wrestling team announced Tuesday that the team has hired former Olympian and All-American Sammie Henson as an assistant coach.
Henson came to Missouri in 1991 and became the Big Eight champion and an All-American at 118 pounds as a freshman. He transferred the following year to Clemson where he was a two-time NCAA champion, a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Champion, and a three-time All-American. He went 71-0 in his junior and senior seasons at Clemson. He returned to MU in 1995 to finish his degree in parks, recreation and tourism management.
Henson went on to become the 1998 World Champion and 2000 Olympicsilver medalist in freestyle wrestling at 54 kilograms (119 pounds).
“Being in touch with the best wrestlers in the world will help me evolve as a coach,” Henson said by phone Wednesday from St. Louis.
Henson also hopes to use that experience and his connections as recruiting tools.
He is currently the head coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, where he trains freestyle wrestlers who are preparing for the Olympics. Three of his seven wrestlers are headed to the Olympics in London later this summer.
Henson also travels the country facilitating camps. On Tuesday, he led a camp at his alma mater Francis Howell High School in St. Louis. From there, he will travel to Seattle, California and North Carolina. Henson said he will remain the head coach for Sunkist after he starts at Missouri.
Henson comes to Missouri after assistant coaching stints at Penn State, West Point, Nebraska (as a volunteer assistant), California Polytechnic State University, and most recently at the University of Oklahoma.
His different coaching positions have kept him in contact with head coach Smith.
“We competed against each other as coaches so we have mutual respect,” Henson said.
They both attended a coaches summit at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo. Henson also brought his Olympic-bound athletes to a training camp at Missouri this past year.
After sharing their expertise and getting to know each other on a personal level, Smith contacted Henson about the position.
“He’s had a lot of success in coaching,” Smith said.
Henson joins a Missouri team that had a successful 2011-2012 season. The team claimed its first Big 12 Conference tournament championship and qualified all 10 of its starters for the NCAA championships.
Henson returns to Missouri eager to start his new position and excited to return to his home state. His family still lives in Missouri along with the family of his wife, who he met and married here.
“It’s an easy move to me," Henson said. "It’s a no-brainer.”
The hire completes a season full of changes for the Tigers. With the arrival of Henson, Smith has appointed four different coaches this season, including another assistant, a volunteer and a director of operations.
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