Three Names Linked to Pitt Assistant Coach Search

PITTSBURGH – This could be another big week for the Pitt wrestling program, and names are beginning to leak out as new head coach Keith Gavin looks to fill his coaching staff.

The Pitt alumnus has some big decisions to make. First off is deciding what to do about the coaching staff that was in place when Gavin was hired.

Matt Kocher, who served as co-head coach with Drew Headlee after former head coach Jason Peters was fired in December, will not return. Kocher broke the news to members of the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club late last week.

Top Assistant

Early indications are that Headlee will remain on the staff, although he might serve as the second assistant. That’s because Jordan Leen, who is the associate head coach at Virginia, is one of the top candidates that Gavin has reportedly set his sights on. Gavin spent the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons on the Cavaliers staff with Leen, with Virginia winning the ACC team championship in 2015.

Leen won an NCAA championship at 157 pounds wrestling for Cornell in 2008 – the same year that Gavin won a title for Pitt at 174. The son of former Tennessee-Chattanooga head coach Mark Leen, Jordan was the winningest wrestler in Tennessee high school history when he graduated in 2004. He was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” segment.

Leen, who is regarded as an excellent recruiter, was a pre-med major at Cornell and served as an analyst for ESPN during the network’s 2010 broadcast of the NCAA Championships.

Josh Churella, who is the second assistant coach at Michigan, also is scheduled to interview at Pitt this week. Churella just wrapped up his third season as a full-time staff member with the Wolverines.

An NCAA runner-up at 149 pounds in 2007, Churella was a three-time All-American while wrestling for Michigan. After college he had a successful senior-level career, spending three years on the U.S. national freestyle team.

Like Leen, Churella is the son of a former college coach. Mark Churella Sr. coached UNLV from 1979-84. The older Churella was a three-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American at Michigan. Ryan Churella, Josh’s brother, was a three-time All-American for the Wolverines.

Volunteer Assistant

In addition to the two assistant coaching positions, Gavin will need to decide on the volunteer assistant position. Tyler Nauman, Gavin’s former Pitt teammate, just concluded his first season in that role.

Presumably, the volunteer assistant will be responsible for handling duties relating to both the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club and the Olympic Regional Training Center that Gavin has said will be a priority. That likely means that a replacement will be sought for Nauman.

One of the names linked to the position is 2008 Olympian Steve Mocco. A two-time NCAA Champion and four-time finalist, Mocco has been serving as a coach for American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Mocco’s extraordinary life and career were documented last year by FloWrestling in “MOCCO.”

From a legendary youth and high school career in New Jersey to a Hodge Trophy-winning performance at Iowa to a high-profile transfer to Oklahoma State to the Olympics and a brief MMA career, Mocco would bring plenty of name recognition to the position.

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