Penn State Announces Coaching Changes

Penn State Announces Coaching Changes

Penn State has announced the promotion of Jake Varner and the addition of Jimmy Kennedy to their coaching staff.

Nov 13, 2021 by Jon Kozak
Penn State Announces Coaching Changes

Penn State has announced changes to their coaching staff in the promotion of Jake Varner and the addition of Jimmy Kennedy. Varner will now be the head coach of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club while Kennedy will take over as Penn State’s Volunteer Assistant Coach. 

Varner’s accolades include impressive accomplishments from both his college and freestyle career. While at Iowa State, he was a 4-time NCAA finalist and 2-time NCAA Champion. After college, he won a world bronze medal in 2011 and followed that up with an Olympic gold medal in 2012. After his senior-level career, Varner made the transition to coaching and has held the role of Volunteer Assistant at Penn State since 2016.

Jimmy Kennedy comes to Penn State after a three-year stint as an Assistant Coach at Northwestern. As a competitor, Kennedy was a 3-time All-American for the University of Illinois placing 4th (2008) and 5th (2009 and 2011). After his college career, Kennedy competed on the senior level for seven years and made a world team for the United States in 2014. 

Full Penn State Press Release: 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team welcomes Jimmy Kennedy as assistant coach as Jake Varner has been promoted to head the Penn State Olympic Regional Training Center. Kennedy joins the staff in Varner's former assistant coach slot while Varner will now head up the efforts of the Penn State Olympic RTC/Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

Kennedy comes to Penn State after serving as an assistant coach for the Northwestern Wildcats, which was preceded by an All-American career as a wrestler for the University of Illinois. Kennedy served as an assistant coach at Northwestern from 2018 through 2021. 

He was a three-time All-American for the Illini, hitting the podium in 2008, 2009 and 2011.  Kennedy ended his collegiate career with a 119-24 record. A native of Ingleside, Ill., and a graduate of Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, Ill., Kennedy also has a lengthy list of freestyle accolades. He was a member of the U.S. World Team in 2014 and finished second in the U.S. World Team Trials in 2013 and 2017. Kennedy was the U.S. Open Champion in 2016, won the Paris International in 2017 and the Yasar Dogu in 2014.  Kennedy won the Intercontinental Cup in 2013, the Guelph Open in 2012 and 2013 and the New York Athletic Club International in 2012.

 "We are excited to be adding Jimmy Kennedy to the Penn State wrestling staff as our volunteer assistant coach," said Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson. "This is an exciting day for Penn State wrestling and the Penn State Olympic Regional Training Center. With the ascension of the Penn State RTC and Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, we are now in a position to dedicate singular attention to running the RTC/NLWC as head coach and point person. We're fortunate to have Jake Varner take on the duties of head coach of the RTC/NLWC."

 Varner has served as an assistant coach for the Nittany Lions since 2016.  He came to Penn State after an outstanding career at Iowa State University. The Cyclone ended his collegiate career as the best in the country, winning the 197-pound title in 2010. Varner posted a 31-0 record as a senior and was 121-10 over the course of his career. The NCAA title he won as a senior was his second, having won his first as a junior in 2009.

Varner was the 184-pound NCAA finalist as a sophomore and freshman. One of Iowa State's all-time greats, Varner was a four-time All-American, four-time NCAA finalist and two-time NCAA Champion. As a freestyle wrestler, Varner reached the sport's pinnacle by claiming the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal at 96kg in London.  His performance in the Olympics capped off a stellar 2012 that also saw him win the Pan American Games Gold and the Yarygan Bronze. He also claimed a World Bronze in 2011 in Istanbul.

"Jake is an Olympic Champion, and National Champion and well respected internationally," Sanderson continued. "With Jake now helming the RTC, we are excited to welcome Jimmy Kennedy to our Penn State wrestling coaching staff as our volunteer assistant. Jimmy's experience as an All-American wrestler and an assistant coach in the Big Ten are great assets and we're grateful that he is joining our staff."