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Wells retires at Oregon State coach after 14 seasons with the Beavers

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Joe Wells has stepped down as Oregon State's wrestling head coach, it was announced Thursday. Wells spent 14 years at OSU and compiled a 161-94-3 dual meet record, he led the Beavers to a Pacific-10 championship and guided them to four top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including a runner-up finish in 1995.

Wells has asked to be reassigned within the University, and his request will be granted, OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis said. Wells will be working with OSU's Bridge program, which helps build the skills students need to make a successful transition from high school to college.

"My son is going into high school next year and I thought it would be really nice to spend some time with my kids versus everybody else's kids," said Wells, 58, whose first season at OSU was 1992-93. "And I'm really looking forward to a new challenge. I think I'll have an opportunity to be working with all student athletes and all the teams in the department and serve as a resource for the coaches.

"I'll be reporting to Larry Roper (Vice Provost for Student Affairs) and I have a lot of respect for him and the things he's done, and I'm really looking forward to the new challenge."

This season, the Beavers had one of their finest dual meet seasons with a 13-2-1 record, including beating nationally-ranked Hofstra and Cal Poly. OSU placed fourth in the Pac-10 Championships and tied for 41st at the NCAA Championships.

"Joe has done an exemplary job of maintaining a clean, competitive program for more than a decade," OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis said. "During his time at Oregon State, his program has not only produced wrestlers who performed well on the mat, but performed well in the classroom and on campus, as well. His presence on our coaching staff will be missed, but we look forward to having him remain at OSU in this new capacity."

OSU will begin its search for a new head coach immediately. Oregon State has a long tradition as one of the nation's wrestling powers.

The Beavers rank third in all-time dual meet victories with an 895-286-26 mark dating back to 1909. OSU has won 44 team conference championships and 200 individual conference titles; the Beavers have placed in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships 18 times; and OSU wrestlers have earned 81 All-America honors, including 12 national titles. In the pre-NCAA Championships era, Oregon State won the 1926 team national title at the Amateur Athletic Association meet.

During Wells' tenure at OSU, the Beavers contribution to that legacy included the 1994 Pacific-10 team championship, 22 individual conference champions, 17 All-America finishes and a pair of individual national titles. At the NCAA meet under Wells, OSU placed second in 1995, fourth in 1994, eighth in 1996 and tied for ninth in 1998.

Wells was named Pacific-10 Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1995. In 1998, he was named the ASICS Oregon Wrestling Classic's Man of the Year for his contributions to wrestling in the state."

"I just think of the kids and the relationships, the funny circumstances that have occurred" Wells said. "How this guy or that guy came in and worked hard and had a great career. There's just a whole myriad of thoughts that cross your mind ...

"Like (former heavyweight) Adam Daniels coming in and now he's got a job in Washington D.C. working for Darlene Hooley and may become a professor or go to law school and become a congressmanů it's just all the individual stories, those connections that you have. Like (All-American) Nathan Coy going to the NCAAs, and his mom asking him 'What does NCAA stand for?' and he says, 'National Collegiate Athletic Association.' She says, 'No - it's Nathan Coy, All-American.' He liked that."

Wells, who has coached numerous World Teams for the United States, is a 1972 Iowa graduate. He was a two-time placer at the Big Ten meet and was the 1976 U.S. Wrestling Federation freestyle champ. He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa and Michigan before coming to Oregon State.

Wells leaves his successor an OSU program that could have five qualifiers for the NCAA Championships returning for the 2006-07 season: 125-pounder Eric Stevenson, 133-pounder Bobby Pfennigs, 141-pounder Kyle Larson, 174-pounder Jeremy Larson and heavyweight Ty Watterson. Other wrestlers who were either starters this past season or have extensive experience as starters at OSU include 125/133-pounder Jake Gonzales, 149-pounder Derek Kipperberg, 184-pounder Kyle Bressler and 197-pounder Travis Gardner.

"It was just a perfect opportunity," Wells said of the timing for a new coach to lead the program. "We have a senior/junior-dominated group for next year and it would be an easy transition for the person coming in."

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