Chun ready to lead newly established Iowa women’s wrestling program

Two-time Olympian Clarissa Chun was named head coach of the UI’s NCAA Division I women’s wrestling team Thursday afternoon.

Clarissa+Chun+smiles+while+being+introduced+as+the+new+women%E2%80%99s+wrestling+coach+for+the+University+of+Iowa+during+a+press+conference+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+in+Iowa+City+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+19%2C+2021.+Chun+won+an+Olympic+bronze+medal+for+Team+USA+in+the+2012+Olympics.

Jerod Ringwald

Clarissa Chun smiles while being introduced as the new women’s wrestling coach for the University of Iowa during a press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. Chun won an Olympic bronze medal for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter


Clarissa Chun spoke with reporters in the Feller Club Room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Friday afternoon — less than 24 hours after she was named the first-ever head coach of the University of Iowa women’s wrestling program.

Chun, a two-time Olympian, stressed the importance of building a passionate, competitive, and consistent program at Iowa.

“What I do know as far as, like, drawing on my own experiences, I know consistency is key,” Chun said. “You know, to everything in life, right? As far as if you want to move forward and be successful, right? Like it’s not just what you put in on the mat, but also what you’re doing off the mat.

“And then being competitive,” Chun continued. “You know, like, competitive whether it’s like being your best self for that day, whatever you can pull. You can have a hard day and bring your best self to that day. So be competitive, be consistent, and, for me, it’s about caring for one another.”

Iowa Deputy Director of Athletics, Barbara Burke, who oversaw the head coaching search, said that Chun separated herself from the competition at every stage.

“We did have a tremendous pool of talented, qualified candidates, and at every interaction, Clarissa just rose to the top,” Burke said. “All the discussions that we had and she did a great job and she really set herself apart.”

Burke said that Chun’s passion for women’s wrestling, as well as her familiarity with the Iowa City community and it’s zest for the sport, made her the best candidate for the job. 

“I think, for me, it really is the passion that she has for the sport,” Burke said. “I think that’s really important. Clearly she knows wrestling, that was never an issue from the get-go. So, it was about the fit for Iowa. She loves the Iowa brand. She’s been around Iowa City and Coralville. She understands the importance of wrestling in this community. So, she gets the big picture.

“The other piece of it is being an ambassador for the sport because we do want to continue to help support girls and women’s wrestling,” Burke added. “And what a great ambassador that we can have for our program for women’s wrestling across the country.”

Chun was an assistant coach on the U.S. National Women’s Wrestling Team before she was named Iowa women’s wrestling head coach.

Chun worked with former Hawkeye national champion and women’s national team head coach Terry Steiner. During her tenure at USA Wrestling, the U.S. women’s team won 17 World medals, including seven gold, four silver and six bronzes.

Steiner and Chun’s squad also won an Olympic gold, Olympic silver, and two Olympic bronzes.

Chun said that, while she loved working on the staff at USA Wrestling, Iowa City was the perfect destination to begin her head coaching career. 

“I could, you know, continue working alongside coach Terry Steiner, amazing, love working with him and the women on the national team, love working with them as well,” Chun said. “But no better place to try to take a leap, you know and challenge myself and breaking out and trying to fill that head coach role than here in Iowa.

“[Power Five women’s wrestling] was a dream of mine when I was in high school, but that wasn’t a possibility,” Chun continued. “Wrestling back then was making T-shirts that said, ‘Girls play volleyball, boys play basketball, and men wrestle’ … You know what, now women wrestle too.”

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