Neosho County Community College wrestling will continue to develop their talent, but now with a new assistant coach.
In July, the NCCC Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Matt Hansen as the new assistant wrestling coach. This spot was made available after the resignation of former assistant wrestling coach Gunnar Woodburn, who was at NCCC for only a year. Hansen’s first official day will be Monday.
“I’m very excited about it. I’m really looking forward to it. I think I’m really going to enjoy the area, the town, the school, and working with coach (Nick) Nothern,” Hansen said. “I haven’t met many of the guys on the team. I met a few and talked to some on the phone. ... I haven’t met a lot of the other coaching staff and administration, but I talked to some of them over the phone. And I think I’m really going to enjoy it here.”
Hansen, 47, was enjoying his wrestling career at Doane University last year. With the wrestling community being so close-knit, Hansen found out that there was an assistant coaching vacancy at NCCC. Hansen went through the application process, and NCCC wrestling coach Nothern thought Hansen was just the man for the job.
“I’ve known Matt through his brother for a long time,” Nothern said. “They come from a wrestling family and I know Matt is very knowledgeable and had lots of contacts to help with recruiting. I liked that he’s been coaching longer than I have and I hope to learn from him. I hope we can make each other better coaches.”
It’s a small wrestling world, and little did both know that they eventually meet in their respective circle. Hansen has been a college wrestling coach for the past 14 years, beginning his college coaching stint as an assistant at Luther College in Iowa from 2004 to 2008. It was at Luther College where he first met Nothern, who is a three-time NCAA All-American and was a coach at Cornell College. The schools competed against each other.
A year later, he Hansen journeyed to Hastings College in Nebraska 2009-12, achieving his Master’s degree while coaching wrestling. The next stint was at Simpson College in Iowa, before heading to Doane University in Nebraska as a coach for four years, 2015-19. He was just the second head wrestling coach at Doane since the school had been reinstated after being eliminated in the 1970s. Hansen in his time at Doane has coached five different All-Americans.
Hansen’s experience speaks for itself.
“(I add) a lot of experience – experience as a head coach and as an assistant coach. I’m also a certified strength and condition coach, and I’ve coached at some different levels, NAIA and CIAA, and this is going to be a unique experience and a good learning experience for me because this is the first time I’ve been in the NJCAA, so that’ll be different, and I think it will be a good switch for me. I think I’ll enjoy it,” Hansen said. “This is my first junior college coaching experience, so I think that’ll be good to have that experience.”
The experience will be different this year, though, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that has incapacitated sports. In July, the NJCAA voted that most fall JuCo sports to move to the spring, leading NCCC to create an adjusted plan of action for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, pushing the majority of competition to next semester.
Junior college wrestling was pushed to January of 2021, a few months past its normal start time at the end of the year. NCCC’s new assistant coach had some thoughts on that.
“(It’s the) second semester, not necessarily the spring, but it’s the second-semester sport,” Hansen continued. “...Neosho is going to be having all their sports in the spring semester this year, which will be interesting. It’s going to be a unique and interesting year. You see now that the NCAA is pushing a lot of their fall sports to be canceled. I like the fact that the NJCAA has kind of taken the lead on deciding on what they’re going to do this year. You see a lot of the four-year schools dragging their feet on this. It doesn’t seem to me like they’re doing as well as a job with it – maybe, maybe not. That’s not for me to say, I guess, but I like the fact that the NJCAA is proactive and making decisions.”
Hansen wrestled at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, a Division II school from 1993 to 1997. He is a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Division II wrestling championships. The Gregory, S.D., native then taught and coached high school wrestling in South Dakota.