Heffernan retires after 29 years with Illini wrestling

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CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After 29 years with the Illinois wrestling program, Jim Heffernan is retiring. The Illini head coach took over the program in 2010 after serving as an assistant coach since 1993.

“I am grateful to the University of Illinois, Josh Whitman and the entire Division of Intercollegiate Athletics for the opportunity to be a part of the Illini community for more than half my life,” Heffernan said in a statement. “For the past 29 years, Rebecca and I have lived, worked, and raised our children here, and it has truly become home. I am most appreciative of our current and former student-athletes who have been loyal, committed and dedicated to the Illinois program while giving us four or five years of their lives. The Illinois program has afforded me life changing memories, experiences and relationships. The decision to retire has been challenging to say the least, but I feel great about the current group and the future of the program. Forever grateful, appreciative and proud to have been a part of Illini Athletics. I-L-L!”

Heffernan finished his career with 13 Top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, coached 73 All-Americans, 215 NCAA qualifiers, 11 individual NCAA champions and 20 Big Ten Conference champions during his time at Illinois.

“For nearly three decades, Jim Heffernan has dedicated his life to Illinois Wrestling,” Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “He represents our athletic program’s most closely held values: he cares deeply about his student-athletes and his colleagues, and he embodies toughness, competitiveness, and hard work. Through his actions and his words, he has been a leader, mentor, and friend to many. Our program will miss him. On behalf of Fighting Illini Athletics and the University of Illinois, I want to thank Jim and Rebecca for their long service to our university, and I wish them much happiness in retirement.”

Coaching Experience

-University of Illinois, head coach (2010-2021)

-University of Illinois, assistant coach (1993-2009)

-Oregon State University, assistant coach (1991-1992)

-Lehigh University, assistant coach (1989-1990)

-University of Iowa, graduate assistant (1988)

Career Honors

-NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year (1995, 2001, 2003)

-AFLAC Assistant Coach of the Year (2003)

-Four-time All-American, University of Iowa (1984-1987)

-Four-time Big Ten Champion at 150-pounds (1984-87)

-Iowa’s Male Athlete of the Year (1987)

-NCAA Champion at 150-pounds (1986)

-National Wrestling Hall of Fame (2006)

International Coaching Experience

-Cadet Wrestling Team, Istanbul, Turkey (1992)

-USA World Espoir Team (1989)

Illinois By the Numbers During Heffernan Era

-13 Top-10 finishes at NCAA Championships

-11 individual NCAA titles and 12 NCAA second-place finishers

-73 All-Americans

-20 individual Big Ten titles

-28 straight seasons with at least one All-American

-215 NCAA qualifiers

-138 Academic All-Big Ten

-2005 Big Ten Championship, program’s first since 1952

-10 NCAA Championship qualifiers in one season (1995, 2000, 2006)

-5 All-Americans in one season (2004, 2005)

-4 Midlands team titles

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