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Bruce Baumgartner is a living legend within the sport of wrestling -- arguably the greatest super-heavyweight in United States history. After capturing the Division I national championship as a senior at Indiana State in 1982, Baumgartner embarked on a post- collegiate career that produced four Olympic medals (two gold) and nine World Championship medals (three gold).
Following retirement, Baumgartner became head coach of intercollegiate wrestling at Edinboro University, leading the program's transition from Division II to Division I.
So when Baumgartner talks about any topic on wrestling, people listen. And it speaks volumes that Baumgartner hired Tim Flynn not once, but twice.
Baumgartner initially hired Flynn to serve as his assistant coach at Edinboro. When Baumgartner was elevated to athletic director, he did not hesitate to name Flynn as his successor.
"I had no doubt that Tim would make a great head coach. His desire, work ethic and personality are all top-notch," Baumgartner said. "Tim has a true passion for the sport is an outstanding leader. His wrestling knowledge is first-rate and his ability to teach is tremendous."
Those traits that led Baumgartner to launch Flynn's coaching career have helped the Fighting Scots post the highest finish in program history at the NCAA Division I National Championships -- placing fifth.
Penn State captured its fourth straight national championship and was followed by other traditional powers such as Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Iowa. Next on the leader board behind those Big Ten and Big 12 programs was tiny Edinboro.
Edinboro's surprising performance prompted tournament organizers to select Flynn as the NCAA Division I Coach of the Year. Not bad for an Annapolis High graduate whose introduction to wrestling came as part of the renowned Navy Junior program.
"It's very nice to be honored by your peers. It's really a program award because it's based on having a good season. As a coach, you don't get that award if your team finishes last," Flynn said. "It also should be a staff award because I certainly can't do this alone. I have two great assistants who are awesome to work with and our team definitely wouldn't be where it is without them."
Flynn is the son of a Marine Corps officer who served a couple stints at the Naval Academy. Joe Flynn first came to Annapolis as an academy professor and signed his son up for the junior program that was run by renowned Navy head coach Ed Peery and his assistant Reg Wicks.
The family returned to Annapolis when Tim Flynn was in high school, and as a senior at Annapolis in 1982 he was a county and region champion along with state runner-up at 112 pounds under the guidance of head coach Dave Gehrdes.
Flynn was a walk-on at Penn State, but eventually earned a scholarship. Wrestling at 126 and 134 pounds, Flynn compiled a 105- 32-2 career record and captured consecutive Eastern Wrestling League championships. As a senior in 1986-87, he served as team captain and posted a 30-10-1 mark while earning All-American honors.
Perhaps just as important was the mentorship Flynn received from renowned Penn State head coach Rich Lorenzo. While working toward a Master's Degree in Business Administration, Flynn served as a graduate assistant for Lorenzo.
"Tim earned his Master's and started selling insurance and I just knew that was not the field for him," Lorenzo said. "I called Tim up and said point-blank, 'You need to be working with kids, you need to be involved with wrestling.' I'm so glad I made that phone call."
It was Lorenzo who tipped off Flynn about the assistant's opening at Edinboro and gave Baumgartner a glowing recommendation. Lorenzo is not at all surprised that his protege is now one of the finest head coaches in collegiate wrestling.
"Tim loves people and he loves teaching. Those are the primary attributes one needs to be successful in this profession," said Lorenzo, a two-time National Coach of the Year who led the Nittany Lions to 11 EWL titles before retiring in 1992. "Tim is a very honest, sincere, straight-forward type of person. He's an excellent communicator and a master of details. You know his teams will always be well-prepared."
Flynn said both Baumgartner and Lorenzo were tremendous mentors.
"Bruce and Rich have been huge influences. They have different personalities, but are similar people. They are both hard workers and straight shooters," he said. "It wasn't anything that they told me. It was more watching how they operated and how they treated people."
Flynn is the all-time winningest wrestling coach in Edinboro history with a career record in dual meets of 184-68-5. He has led the Fighting Scots to four Top 10 finishes at nationals with the previous best result prior to this season being a sixth place.
Perhaps most impressive has been Edinboro's dominance of its home turf under Flynn. The Fighting Scots have captured the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Tournament crown 14 times and the EWL championship 13 times during his 17-year tenure.
"I take pride in working with kids and trying to get the most out of them. I've always tried to be up front and honest with my wrestlers. I think if they know that I truly care about them and their goals, they will put in the necessary effort."