Sooners Name Roger Kish Head Wrestling Coach

NORMAN — University of Oklahoma Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione announced Tuesday that Roger Kish has been hired as OU’s new head wrestling coach. Kish takes the OU reins after presiding over Big 12 Conference affiliate member North Dakota State the last 12 seasons and guiding the Bison to a winning record each of the last five years (48-20 combined).

Kish coached North Dakota State to a 108-70 (.607) dual record since taking over prior to the 2011-12 campaign, including a 50-30 (.625) mark in conference duals (33-26 in the Big 12 and 17-4 in the Western Wrestling Conference). The Bison have been on the upswing under Kish the last five seasons, posting a .706 team winning percentage during the stretch and a 21-7 (.750) record the last two years.

Kish’s 2022-23 NDSU squad went 11-3 in dual competition and finished fifth out of 13 teams at the Big 12 Championship after tying for fourth place in the regular season with a 6-2 record. The Bison, who broke into the top 20 and never left after a 20-16 season-opening road win over No. 8 Nebraska, reached No. 15 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll for their highest official coaches ranking since they moved to Division I in 2006-07. They also reached No. 12 in the InterMat rankings this past season, their highest in any poll in their D-I history. NDSU beat Oklahoma 21-12 in February in Fargo, N.D., and went on to finish 24th at NCAAs after scoring a Division I program-record 25.5 points at the event.

“Coach Kish brings with him a wealth of experience and leadership, as well as a mentality for championship-caliber competition,” said Castiglione. “Roger knows what it takes to build a championship program, and he’s done just that at North Dakota State, with many of his wrestlers having won conference titles and earning All-American honors. His coaching philosophy aligns with our approach at Oklahoma, and I know he’ll guide our wrestling program toward achieving the standards we’ve set for ourselves.

“Outside of coaching, Roger has deep experience engaging with key stakeholders in the wrestling community, which has contributed greatly to his success. From the recruiting trail to championship matches, Roger demonstrates a sincere intentionality in the development of his wrestlers, and I know our student-athletes and our program will benefit immensely from his direction. We can’t wait to welcome him, his wife Jessalyn, and their children, Huxley and Emry to the Sooner family.”

Kish coached 21 Bison wrestlers to NCAA Championships qualification over the last four seasons: six in 2023, five in 2022, four in 2021 and six in 2020 (before the event was canceled due to COVID-19). Those wrestlers earned a total of nine All-America honors, including two in 2023 by 157-pound senior Jared Franek (fourth place; was also the 2023 Big 12 champion) and 165-pound redshirt freshman Michael Caliendo (seventh place).

Kish’s NDSU wrestlers also flourished in the classroom. His Bison earned 35 NWCA Scholar All-America honors since he became head coach and combined for 100 academic all-conference accolades. Clay Ream was named the 2017 and 2018 Big 12 Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year and earned three consecutive NCAA Elite 90 Awards (2016-18), while Franek won two straight NCAA Elite 90 Awards. The Elite 90 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating to the finals site of each year’s NCAA Championships.

“I’m incredibly humbled and honored to be joining this tradition-rich program, as Oklahoma has been such a big brand in our sport,” said Kish, who takes over an OU program that has won seven national championships. “I’m really excited for the opportunity and grateful to Joe Castiglione, (sport administrator) Jason Leonard and the rest of the OU administration for their diligence during the hiring process. We got to know each other very well in a short amount of time and I can’t wait to get started.

“In terms of my expectations, I think right now it’s about getting to Norman, getting a really good gauge of where the program is currently and then working up a game plan of how we want to grow and build it. We’re going to come in and probably do things a little bit differently, and I think that’s going to be a great start to changing the way our student-athletes view the work they’re putting in. Hopefully that can be a positive change and we’ll start moving forward. I think there’s a lot of great talent already there and I’m excited to meet and start building relationships with all the terrific people associated with OU Wrestling, the entire athletics program and the community in general. My family and I are thrilled for the opportunity to join the Sooner family.”

Kish was named Western Wrestling Conference Coach of the Year three consecutive seasons (2013-15) and directed the Bison to a pair of NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference championships (2014, 2015), as well as two WWC regular season titles (2013, 2015). He produced 19 NCAA West Region/WWC/Big 12 individual champions.

Prior to being named head coach at NDSU, Kish spent two seasons as a Bison assistant coach under the legendary Bucky Maughan. Kish joined the Bison program after a highly successful wrestling career at the University of Minnesota, where he also served as a graduate assistant for the 2008-09 season. He was a two-time All-American and NCAA runner-up with the Golden Gophers at 184 pounds.

Kish, who graduated from Minnesota in May 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing education, posted a 117-27 career collegiate record and went 35-7 as a sophomore en route to a Big Ten title and a second-place NCAA finish. As a team captain his junior season, he finished 37-3, was the Big Ten runner-up and finished third nationally.

A Lapeer, Mich., native, Kish was also a two-time cadet national champion and captured a USA Wrestling junior national title. He was a four-time state champion at Lapeer West High School.

Kish and his wife Jessalyn are parents to a son, Huxley, and a daughter, Emry.

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