The new man in charge
Alum Stutzman looks to make mark on UB’s wrestling team as new coach
Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 18:12
When John Stutzman arrived in Chechnya, Russia, he, his wrestlers and assistant coaches were escorted from the airport by guards holding 9-millimeter guns.
They were thrown into the back of armored limousines and driven away at 150 miles per hour down the road, ensuring they wouldn’t be followed. While walking down the streets of the war-torn country, they were stopped by military police and told to stay in their hotel room for their own safety – Americans weren’t seen in a good light there.
Stutzman was head coach of USA Wrestling’s University World Team at the Ramzan Kadirov Cup in Chechnya in 2009.
He believes the experience was worth the risk. It was a chance to coach in a country where wrestling was put on a pedestal.
“Wrestling is king [in Chechnya],” Stutzman said. “It’s one of the oddest places I’ve ever been to. It was clearly an eye-opening experience … I love it because over there wrestling is like our football.”
Stutzman is now the head coach for Buffalo wrestling.
He’s had several eye-opening experiences while coaching around the world. The excitement and fast-paced lifestyle don’t faze him; in fact, it suits him perfectly. His high motor and intense personality led him to become a dominant 150-pound wrestler for the Bulls from 1995-98. Now – after guiding Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania to a 97-56-1 record over the past eight years – Stutzman returns to his alma mater using that same drive.
Wrestling isn’t “just a 9-to-5 job” for Stutzman. It’s his life.
Besides his wife, Anette, two daughters, Alexa Bryanna and Torin Valera, and newborn son, Paxton John, Stutzman doesn’t have many interests outside of wrestling. A look around his office proves it. There are only wrestling trophies and pictures of his family.
“Besides his real marriage, I would say [Stutzman’s] married to [wrestling],” said Buffalo assistant wrestling coach Bryce Hasseman. “He’s constantly staying up at night thinking about it. He’s constantly trying to find ways to make the program better.”
Stutzman has been involved in wrestling nearly his entire life. He grew up in New Castle, Del., where the rest of his family played every sport except wrestling. Stutzman wanted to be different. Wrestling became an outlet for him.
“I was a very combative, rambunctious, an intense kind of kid,” Stutzman said. “So I gravitated toward wrestling once I knew there was wrestling.”
Stutzman had a storied career in his three seasons at Buffalo. It’s difficult to look through the wrestling program’s record book and not see his name. He graduated as the program’s all-time leader in wins, with a record of 95-27, and is tied for fourth all-time in takedowns with 135.
But he always seemed destined to become a coach.
“He kind of took me under his wing and kind of showed me what it takes to be a Division I wrestler,” said Charlie Voorhees, a teammate of Stutzman at Buffalo. “He has an amazing ability to be able to lead wrestlers and make a personal connection with them and figure out how they tick.”
Stutzman wrestled for Niagara County Community College before transferring to UB. During his time at NCCC, he would come to Buffalo and train with the Bulls. When he walked onto UB’s campus for the first time in 1993, he didn’t only want to be a head coach; he wanted to run the Bulls’ program in particular.
“I knew at that time I was going to be a head coach, and I knew I wanted to be a head coach at the University at Buffalo,” Stutzman said. “It was always something about this place and Western New York that I knew I was going to come back. It’s always been my dream and goal to get back to this university and get it to the next level.”
But when Stutzman signed on as Buffalo’s head coach earlier this year, he was placed in a difficult position. He was replacing his former coach and mentor.
Stutzman wrestled for former wrestling head coach Jim Beichner at UB and served as an assistant coach after graduating. Beichner gave Stutzman his first coaching experience and extra responsibilities, like running the offseason training and the free style programs.