In the midst of his third year on the Eagle wrestling coaching staff, 2007 Ashland University graduate Ryan Kirst has been elevated to a full-time assistant.
Kirst, a 2006 Division II All-American at 197 pounds, spent the previous two years as a part-time assistant coach.
"It's life-changing for my family and I," Kirst said. "It's also a great opportunity for me to be here more often with the program. Ashland is like the first home I've had aside from the house I was brought up in."
He's taking the place of Antonio Guerra, who also spent two years with the Eagles and is taking over as head coach of the brand-new program at Defiance College.
"It's been great learning from coach Guerra and (head) Coach (Josh) Hutchens," Kirst said. "When I was here wrestling, we were just scratching the surface academically and athletically with what we could have been."
After his collegiate wrestling career that included 116 wins and four appearances at the national championships, Kirst served as an assistant coach at five different schools: Heidelberg (2013), Lake Erie College (2011), the club program at Cleveland State (2010-12), Bay High School (2010-11) and Lakewood St. Edward High School (2007-10). He was also an assistant at Ashland Crestview High School in 2006-07.
"As I've progressed in life," Kirst said, "it's pulled on my heartstrings and soul that this is what I'm here to do."
With Kirst assisting on the bench, the Eagles placed sixth at the national championships in 2017 and 14th in 2016. Last season, 133-pounder and 2017 AU graduate Michael Labry became the program's first national champion since 1996.
Kirst and his wife, Beth, reside in Cleveland with their daughters, Amelia and Coraline.