Chauncy Wynn graduated from Morgan State in 1991 as a three-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference wrestling champion who was undefeated in league competition.

Coached by the late James “Phil” Phillips, who died in July 2019, Wynn was also among the Bears’ four NCAA All-Americans for a program which earned Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles from 1963 to 1965 and 13 MEAC crowns.

But Wynn was gutted after the 1996-97 season, having received the news that the Bears’ program – the only historically Black college or university to offer the sport at the NCAA Division I level – was being dropped due to a lack of resources.

“I was very disappointed when they discontinued the wrestling program,” said Wynn, 55, who lives in Flint, Michigan. “When it came to Morgan sports, we were always the team that did the best out of all sports.”

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But the hibernation is over and the Bears are back.

Kenny Monday, the first Black wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport, was named in August, 2022 to coach the Bears. A National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, three-time Olympian and three-time NCAA All-American, Monday will guide the Bears over an independent schedule that includes home matches against Marymount (Nov. 20) and Maryland (Dec. 10).

“First and foremost my goal is to bring Morgan State wrestling back to a prominent position. Coach Phil did an incredible job with what he had, being a football coach and not having been a wrestler,” said Monday, who has coached 30 national champions and 50 All-Americans.

“Working off Coach Phil’s legacy, we’re looking to build a world-class training environment for our young kids coming to Morgan State. We want kids to dream about coming to wrestle at Morgan State University as part of our rise. That’s what our focus is.”

Monday joins Indiana’s Angel Escobedo, Duke’s Glen Lenham and Davidson’s Nate Carr among the four Black head coaches in Division I, and he is also among four Division I coaches to have won Olympic gold medals joining Oklahoma State’s John Smith (1988 and 1992), Iowa’s Tom Brands (1996) and Penn State’s Cael Sanderson (2004).

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Monday, 61, and Smith were co-head coaches at OSU in 1992 and Smith became head coach in 1993. Monday was the head Regional Training Center coach from 2010-2012 and coached Coleman Scott, now head coach at the University of North Carolina, to an Olympic bronze medal in 2012. He was also an assistant coach at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Texas.

“Wrestling is officially back at the National Treasure, Morgan State University,” said Morgan State President David K Wilson in the school’s press release. “With the hiring of Coach Monday and the vast, winning experience he brings from competing at the highest echelons, we are certain to return to our championship glory and become a destination for student-athletes desiring top-level coaching and exceptional academic programs.”

Monday will be able to fund approximately nine scholarships per year thanks to a $2.7 million donation from the collaboration of former Princeton wrestler and investment firm CEO Mike Novogratz and Jahi Jones, executive director of the HBCU Wrestling Initiative.

Among Monday’s assistants is Tom King, a former assistant at Maryland private school state powers such as Mount St. Joseph and St. Paul’s and public school kingpin South Carroll. Including junior leagues, King’s extensive coaching experiences include working with Olympic champions Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis.

“Our intent is to ensure that our wrestling program not only develops great wrestlers, but also college graduates,” said King, adding that the Bears’ roster will likely be comprised of about 30 wrestlers. “We’re hoping to highlight MSU as a great university for student athletes, and to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate with character being second to none.”

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A legacy of winning

Monday never lost a match from seventh grade through the end of his senior season at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where earned state titles at 108, 123, 136 and 148 pounds and finished with a record of 140-0-1. Monday also won the 1977 Junior National Championship and won five Junior Olympic crowns in seven appearances.

At Oklahoma State University, Monday ran up a career record of 121-12-2 at 150 pounds, twice finishing second in the NCAA tournament and capturing an NCAA title in 1984. Monday ranks second all-time at OSU with 51 falls, won the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Classic and earned both the Sunkist International Open and World Cup crowns.

Jordan Burroughs, one of the most decorated international wrestlers in the history of the United States (left), posed for a photo Morgan State assistant coach Tom King (center) and new head coach Kenny Monday, an Olympic gold medalist. (Tom King)

Monday became the first Black wrestler to win an Olympic wrestling gold medal in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 by defeating world champion Adlan Varaev of the Soviet Union, 5-2, in overtime. Monday placed second at the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona, Spain, losing 1–0 to Park Jang-Soon of South Korea, and retired after finishing sixth at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Also a winner of U.S. titles in 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1996 as well as a World Championship in 1989, Monday has passed his legacy on to his two sons, Kennedy and Quincy.

Kennedy was a two-time state champion in Texas, placed fourth as a freshman in Oklahoma, and second as a sophomore in Florida. Quincy captured four state high school titles — two each in Texas and North Carolina.

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Kennedy was an NCAA qualifier in 2018 and 2021 while at North Carolina, and Quincy was a three-time All-American and an NCAA Tournament qualifier in 2019, 2020 and 2022 for Princeton. Quincy was an NCAA runner-up at 157 pounds and also placed third once.

“You’re not going to get any better than Kenny Monday,” said Coach Doug McClain of Baltimore City’s St. Frances Academy. “With him having sons who competed on a super high level, he’ll know how to get athletes to the promised land.”

Boots on the ground...

Morgan has received overwhelming guidance and support from Wilson and athletic director Deena Freeman-Patton.

“Meeting doctor Wilson, the president of the university, and having a good, long conversation with him before I was hired was really inspiring and motivating and he assured me that he was supportive of the program and wants us to do great things,” Monday said.

“The athletic director, Dena Freeman, we’re starting our journey together. She’s forward-thinking and excited about adding our program to their overall sports programs. They understand how important it is for young black athletes and all athletes to have an opportunity to wrestle on the Division I level and to further their education.”

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Monday credits McClain and Lydell Henry of Beat The Streets Baltimore with helping him to connect with the local community.

“Lydell Henry has been instrumental in getting me around the city and being able to meet some of the coaches and some of the kids and helping me to transition to the area. Coach Doug McClain and some of the other coaches have been some great resources to have. I’ve gotten my feet on the ground and met some good people,” Monday said.

“Last night I had dinner with Lance London, owner of Carolina Kitchen, who is a Morgan State alumni and a successful business guy who is excited about the program. We’ve met donors who are willing to contribute to the program. We want to have an opportunity at Morgan State to have some outreach into the community.

“Working with some non-profit organizations, we’ll be searching for some of those opportunities. Our focus is to build a winner’s circle around the city who understand how crucial it is to reach these young African American kids in Baltimore and around the country.”

McClain expects area grapplers to be enthused about the future in general and the potential for wrestling under Monday at Morgan State in particular. His Panthers were fourth at the private school states, with runners-up in junior Camren Wright (215) and freshman James Carrington (285). Carrington finished sixth at the high school nationals, and is an ESPN freshman All-American as a defensive tackle.

“Kenny Monday has done it on the highest level,” McClain said, “yet he’s so down to earth like you’re talking to your uncle. He’s going to kick start it with the types of athletes he’s going to attract.”

They’re coming from near…

Woodlawn’s Ky-El Ali was dead set on playing football entering his senior year, this, even after having twice won Class 4A-3A North Regional titles and one Baltimore County title.

That changed when Ali heard wrestling was coming back to Morgan State.

“At the beginning of the year, my mind was set on playing football in college,” said Ali, 18. “But then, I heard they were bringing wrestling back to Morgan.”

From that point, Ali approached his final high school season with a renewed vigor, finishing with a 33-3 record after placing second at each of the Baltimore County and Class 4A-3A state tournaments and winning his third Class 4A-3A North Regional crown.

Woodlawn graduate Ky-El Ali changed his college focus from football to wrestling when he learned of the reemergence of the Morgan State University wrestling program and became one of Coach Kenny Monday's first local recruits. (Ky-El Ali)

“When I got to counties, that’s when I started focusing on Morgan. What made me choose it was the history I heard about,” Ali said. “Then, I met coach Kenny Monday in late March at a tournament right after the state tournament. I didn’t know he was going to be there, but once I saw him, I told my coaches that I wanted to go to Morgan.”

Ali has been putting in the work during the offseason, having posted a 3-1 record at 138 pounds during a freestyle tournament in Chicago in late June. Ali hopes to compete at 133 pounds at Morgan, where he’ll major in physical education and minor in biology.

“It’s exciting to be able to attend an HBCU like Morgan,” Ali said. “I’ll be close to home and have my friends and family be able to come to see me, everything just kind of lined up. I can’t wait to get started.”

And far...

Cort Vann is coming from Heritage High in Frisco, Texas, where the 18-year-old has placed sixth, third and second in the state tournament after wrestling “at 170 for the majority of my high school career.”

“I’ve known about Coach Monday since I was a kid, with him being an Olympic and Oklahoma State legend,” Vann said. “I chose to wrestle for Coach Monday because I know my skills with him over time will reach a very high level and allow for a lot of success in Division I wrestling.”

Vann hopes to compete at 174 pounds at Morgan, where he plans to major in Psychology with a minor in finance

“My education is very important to me. With Coach Monday in the corner, I know that I will win and that as a team we will win,” Vann said. “Just knowing you have a coach and mentor like that in your corner, your potential is unlimited.”

A resident of Marshfield, Massachusetts, Shay MacIntosh placed second at 165 pounds in the New England Tournament, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont.

MacIntosh, 19, finished his year with a record of 30-3 and plans a drop in weight to 157 pounds in order to crack the Bears’ lineup.

“It’s an opportunity to work with a tremendous coach like Kenny Monday who is very knowledgeable,” McIntosh said. “I really like the coaches and the campus and all of the kids on the team I’ve met so far. This is a great opportunity to be a part of history by helping a program to grow.”

Alumni attendance

Charlie Cleveland Morgan II had graduated in 1995 from Morgan, where he was a four-time MEAC champ and an NCAA qualifier and twice an Eastern Regional qualifier while competing at 118, 126 and 134 pounds.

Now a head wrestling coach at Archbishop McCarthy High, in Southwest Ranches, Florida, Morgan is yet another former Bears’ wrestler who is happy to see their heritage restored.

“I was offered a few different opportunities coming out of high school, but It was the wrestling program that attracted me to Morgan State,” said Morgan, 51, who finished second and third at states for Detroit’s Ferndale High in Michigan.

“The feeling of being wanted. It was the culture of the population being African Americans, and the ability to compete that sold me. Now that wrestling’s back, I’m a high school coach, but I’m going to make it a point to make as many dual meets and tournaments as I can.”

Wynn also expects to be mat-side at Morgan as often as possible.

“I’m excited the program is back with an excellent coach in Kenny Monday,” Wynn said. “I plan on attending some matches every year.’

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