Clarissa Chun named head coach of Iowa women’s wrestling team

Chun, a two-time Olympian, is the University of Iowa’s first-ever women’s wrestling coach.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 165-pound Alex Marinelli grapples with Nebraska’s Peyton Robb during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. No. 2 Marinelli defeated No. 18 Robb by decision, 9-3, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 31-6.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Former Olympic wrestling coach Clarissa Chun was named the first-ever head coach of the University of Iowa women’s wrestling team Thursday.

The UI officially added women’s wrestling to the list of sports it sponsors Sept. 23. Iowa is the first Power Five institution to establish a women’s wrestling program.

“Clarissa is the perfect fit to lead us in our journey to build a championship women’s wrestling program,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said in a release Thursday. “Her credentials speak for themselves, and her approach and philosophy match well with our Win. Graduate. Do it Right. Values.”

Iowa added women’s wrestling to resolve a year-long court battle with four former Hawkeye women’s swimmers: Sage Ohlensehlen, Kelsey Drake, Alexa Puccini, and Christina Kaufman.

The swimmers filed their Title IX complaint against the UI in September 2020. The two sides reached a settlement agreement in October 2021.

The settlement required the UI add a women’s wrestling program, retain its women’s swimming program, and pay the women’s swimmers $400,000 in damages.

The Title IX complaint was initially filed in August 2020 after the UI announced that it would be cutting its men’s and women’s swimming, men’s tennis, and men’s gymnastics programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. While women’s swimming was reinstated in perpetuity, men’s swimming, tennis, and gymnastics were all permanently discontinued.

Chun previously worked for USA Wrestling, where she was an assistant coach for the women’s national team from 2017-21. Working under former Hawkeye wrestler and national champion Terry Steiner, Chun helped the U.S. win 17 world medals and Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

“I am grateful for coach Terry Steiner’s leadership and mentorship and look forward to continuing our partnership and developing future national, world, and Olympic champions for the United States of America,” Chun said via the release. “I cannot thank USA Wrestling enough for helping me grow as a person and coach.”

Chun was an accomplished wrestler before she got into coaching. Chun competed in the Olympics twice, finishing in fifth place in the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. She won an Olympic Bronze Medal at the 2012 Games in London.

Chun competed internationally for more than 18 years, appearing in five Senior World Championships. She won a gold medal at the 2008 Senior World Championships in Tokyo, Japan.

On the national level, Chun won five U.S. Open Championships.

Before she wrestled nationally and internationally, she did so collegiately at Missouri Valley College. Chun made her first U.S. Senior Women’s National Team while she was a student at Missouri Valley College.

Chun does have experience coaching wrestling at the collegiate level. Previously, she worked with the West Virginia University men’s wrestling team as an operations assistant.

Chun will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in June 2022.

Chun made the Missouri Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame, Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, and Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame in 2018.

“Gary Barta and Barbara Burke said from the beginning that they would target the best person for the job and that’s exactly what they did,” Iowa men’s wrestling head coach Tom Brands said in the release. “Clarissa Chun has charisma. She has credentials. She has championships. She commands respect and the wrestlers that come to school here are going to love her. This is a big deal for the University of Iowa.”

The Iowa men’s wrestling program has won 24 team national titles and 37 Big Ten team championships. Eighty-five Hawkeyes have won individual national titles and 207 have claimed Big Ten individual championships. 

Iowa men’s wrestling has produced 352 All-Americans over its history that spans more than 100 years.

“It is an honor to be involved in a historic and exciting opportunity for young women across the country to compete as Hawkeyes in women’s wrestling,” Chun said in the release. “I want to thank Gary Barta, Barbara Burke, and Tom Brands for their initiative and leadership, which is going to make a positive and lasting impact on the wrestling world. This didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work and investment from community members and the University of Iowa’s administration, and I send a sincere thank-you to all who have worked to make this happen. 

“It is a privilege to be a part of the Hawkeye brand,” Chun added. “With that, comes great responsibility and high expectations. I am ready to meet those challenges and I am excited to build a winning program in Iowa City — Wrestling Town, USA.”

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