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Castro Announced As Liberty's New Head Wrestling Coach
Liberty University Director of Athletics Thom Park, Ph.D., has announced the employment of former Flames' wrestler Jesse Castro as Liberty's new head wrestling coach, marking the second step in reestablishing the wrestling program at Liberty.
On February 24, 2005, the Athletic Department announced the reinstatement of the wrestling program after an 11-year hiatus as Liberty sponsored the sport from 1974 to 1994. The wrestling program, which will begin competition in the fall of 2006, will be Liberty's 18th NCAA Division I program.
"We are thrilled to have Coach Jesse Castro coming back home to coach and lead our restored wrestling team," said Park. "Coach Castro will bring great expertise and energy to Liberty wrestling. We expect big things from him in the years ahead."
Castro comes to Liberty from Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich, N.J., where he has served from 1997 as a health and physical education teacher (grades 9-12), head wrestling coach, head cross country coach and as head tennis coach (1997-2001).
Over the last eight seasons at the helm of the Kingsway Regional wrestling program, Castro has guided the program to a 124-29 record, five conference and South Jersey sectional championships, four district titles and a state championship in 1998.
Kingsway Regional High School has been ranked in the Top 20 of the state of New Jersey six out of the last eight years (out of 384 schools). Castro, a three-time District Coach of the Year, has coached 34 individual district champions, 10 state place winners, four regional champions and one state champion, while 11 of his graduates currently wrestle at the collegiate level.
"I am both thankful and excited about the upstart of Liberty University wrestling," commented Castro. "This program has in large part contributed to who I am today under the influence of former coaches Bob Bonheim and Don Shuler. To offer high school wrestlers an opportunity to compete at an NCAA Division I level while receiving an education at a highly reputable Christian university is an honor and a privilege."
Castro got his start as a head coach at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., where he served as head wrestling and cross country coach from 1988 to 1997 and as an assistant professor in the Health and Physical Education Department.
While at Norwich, the Cadets were three-time New England College Conference Wrestling Association runner-ups as he guided the program to a 103-47 record. Four times, the Cadets were ranked in the Top 20 in the country, while Norwich produced 53 All-New England wrestlers, nine All-Americans, two national finalists and one national champion during Castro's tenure. He was named New England College Conference Coach of the Year twice and was inducted in the Norwich University Athletic Department Hall of Fame in 2001.
Castro is no stranger to Liberty University as he graduated from the program in 1981, after earning his bachelor's degree in physical education. Castro was the first four-time national champion in the history of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCAA), compiling a career 101-20-2 record (1977-81).
All four years at Liberty, Castro posted 20 or more victories, including a career-best 29-5-1 record as a senior, while finishing fourth at the NAIA national championship in 1981.
After graduation, Castro served with Athletes in Action and Campus Crusade for Christ as a competitor (1981-83) and head coached teams that traveled in Japan, Russia and South Korea from 1987-89.
In 1983, Castro returned to Liberty as an assistant wrestling coach and instructor in the physical education program where he served until 1988. During his five-year stint with the coaching staff, Liberty had five Top 25 NCAA Division II national finishes, including three Top 10 rankings and a program best fifth-place finish at the conclusion of the 1985-86 season. The Flames also compiled a 49-22-4 dual meet record against Division I opponents and had 19 student-athletes garner Division II All-American honors.
The native of Santa Clara, Calif., earned his Master's Degree in Education from Lynchburg College in 1986. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have three daughters – Sarah (11), Rachel (9) and Hannah (7).