Iowa State takes a ride on the coaching carousel

Luke Plansky

The coaching staff of the ISU wrestling team underwent a major overhaul this summer.

Assistant coach Tim Hartung retired from coaching to pursue a career in business, while support staff members Kurt Backes, Trent Paulson and Travis Paulson left for better-paid positions at other Big 12 schools.

Hartung told ISU coach Cael Sanderson in the summer of 2007 that he wanted to make the change for his family.

“We were golfing, and after the round he just said ‘Hey, we need to talk. This is going to be my last year’,” Sanderson said. “It wasn’t a huge shock or anything, because we had talked about his interest in the private sector and getting into business from the time he got here. He gave me the heads-up so I had the opportunity to find somebody [to replace him].”

Sanderson and his brother, associate coach Cody Sanderson, selected and hired former Central Michigan assistant Casey Cunningham as Hartung’s replacement.

Hartung’s wife, Lindsey, is due to give birth to the couple’s first child on Thanksgiving Day, and he said his decision was based solely on his family’s interests.

“It’s time for a new adventure,” Hartung said, who coached at his alma mater, Minnesota, from 1999-2004 and at Iowa from 2005-‘06. “I got married a year ago, and I have a kid on the way, and [it was] just the weekends, and the travel, and being gone all weekend — whenever I’d go out of town, my wife would drive home. It just wasn’t what I wanted for my family.”

Hartung, 33, said thinking about not having to make recruiting visits “brings a smile to my face,” and said he doubts he will ever coach again, “but you never know.”

Speculation arose that Hartung was in the mix for a coaching spot with his alma mater after longtime assistant Marty Morgan stepped down last Tuesday — the same day Hartung began his new job in pharmaceutical sales.

Hartung said the fact that there is an opening with the Gophers is coincidental, “other than [Morgan] is a copycat.”

Meanwhile, the Paulsons joined the Nebraska coaching staff, and Backes was hired at Missouri.

Backes will train with the upper weights at Missouri, including 197-pound Max Askren. Backes handed Askren his first career loss in February 2006.

“That’s his old rival,” Sanderson said. “You know, guys come out of college, and things change a little bit, and you’ve got to go where you think you fit in the best and you get paid the most, I guess. So we wish those guys well — we have a lot of great memories with them, and we’ll always be Cyclones.”