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Longtime Thiel Wrestling Coach Accepts Teaching Position

GREENVILLE, Pa. - Longtime Thiel College wrestling coach Mark Vennis has recently announced that he has accepted a teaching position in the physical education department and will no longer be at the helm of the wrestling program that he has been so vital in making a perennial powerhouse among the Division III ranks over the last 18 years. "I want to thank the athletes that I have been fortunate enough to coach throughout the years here at Thiel. They are the ones that enabled the program to have the success that it has had," said Vennis. In his 18-year tenure as head coach at Thiel, Vennis has seen 15 NCAA All-Americans, 19 NWCA Scholar All-Americans, and 45 NCAA national qualifiers pass through his program. In 2001, he also coached the schools only three-time NWCA Scholar-Americans, seniors Sean Clark and Dustin Wilkinson. Vennis has been nominated three times as the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year award and has won the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) Coach of the Year honors an astounding eleven times. He led the Tomcats to eleven PAC titles, second only to former PAC member John Carroll University's 23. He has also seen three of his teams win National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Regional Championships - two in the Northeast, one in the East. Eight of Vennis' teams earned top 20 honors at the NCAA Division III National Championships. Vennis was grateful to his colleagues and members of the Thiel family for their support over the years, singling out a few individuals who helped Vennis develop the successful wrestling program. "John Dickason, a former athletic director, was instrumental in helping me develop the wrestling program since day one. He allowed me to build this program from scratch and has supported me through all of my years as head coach," said Vennis. Dr. Robert Olson, current vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, received thanks from Vennis, as he had been the coach's first assistant at Thiel. Roy Wilt, former All-American wrestler at Thiel in 1986, also helped continue the development of the program by increasing the schedule with more solid competition. Vennis also sent kudos to current assistant John Reynolds, who has been with the program now for about eight years, and volunteer assistant coach Bob Parker, former head coach at Commodore Perry High School. Vennis graduated from Fairmont State College in 1971 with a social studies comprehensive and health, physical education and recreation double major. He earned his master's degree in education from Youngstown State University in 1979. Vennis took over the struggling Tomcat program in 1982 when the squad was comprised of only four wrestlers. Due to the lack of numbers as well as an interest in the sport, the program was in jeopardy of being cancelled. Vennis was given the task of building the program from the ground up. In his first year as head coach he saw his team go 0-11-1, but saw them improve to an 8-6 record in year two and a 13-1 record in year three. While building a top-notch Division III wrestling program, Vennis also managed to compile an outstanding 148-56-2 dual meet record. His 21 first place, 17 second place and 7 third place finishes at tournaments over the years is a credit to the amount of effort and determination that Vennis has instilled in his student-athletes since his reign began. Legendary State University of New York - College at Oneonta head coach Al Sosa said about his longtime friend, "I have always had a lot of respect for the competitive attitude and sense of togetherness that Marks' teams would show in competition, which is often hard to develop in an individual sport. I truly hope that Thiel will honor him for his many years of hard work and commitment to Thiel athletics as well as every one of his athletes. I hope Thiel will continue to support wrestling and appreciate all that Mark has given to the sport." Besides his accomplishments with the Thiel wrestling program, Vennis was also an integral member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). He served as a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Board of Directors and as the president of the Division III NWCA. For his efforts, the NWCA awarded him with the 25 Year Service Award in 1998. Neil Turner, head wrestling coach at Messiah College, said this about Vennis, "Mark not only put a ton of effort into Thiel wrestling, but also worked to improve all of Division III wresting as well. Although I am sad to see him step down from coaching, I hope that he continues to stay very active in collegiate wrestling." In their 2001 campaign, the Tomcats had a record of 8-2 and were crowned champions at three tournaments. The team will be returning nine of the ten starters in 2002. Vennis will begin his classroom duties in the fall 2001 semester, teaching courses such as physical fitness, weight training and aerobics. Vennis and his wife, Diane, live in Warren, Ohio, and have two children, Todd and Traci.
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