Kenny Monday looks to rebuild wrestling program after 25-year hiatus

The three-time Olympian and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee is dedicated to creating a competitive wrestling program at Morgan State University like it was once before.

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Jordan D. Brown

The athletic department held a press conference for the new wrestling coach on Thursday at 11 a.m. in the University Student Center. Kenny Monday was joined by Dena Freeman-Patton, vice president and director for intercollegiate athletics, and University President David Wilson.

Alex Ederson, Contributing Writer

After a 25-year hiatus, Morgan State University’s wrestling program is set to return in 2023 with Kenny Monday as the head coach.

Monday is dedicated to reviving the wrestling program at Morgan with a plentiful of experience throughout his career as the first Black wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal and a three-time All American wrestler at Oklahoma State University.

The university’s athletic department welcomed the new wrestling coach in a press conference Thursday morning in the University Student Center.

Monday was introduced alongside Dena Freeman-Patton, vice president and director for intercollegiate athletics, and University President David Wilson.

“After 25 years of not having a wrestling program, we here at the university are resurrecting that and what better way to do it than with Kenny Monday,” Wilson said.

Freeman-Patton shared similar sentiments and discussed how Monday stood out during the hiring process.

“It’s an honor to be able to hire this position especially for what it means for Morgan State, what it means for our community, what it means for our young people,” she said.

Monday will be entrusted with rebuilding Morgan’s wrestling program from the ground up. His top priority is building a competitive program with the goal of reaching a national championship.

“I want people to understand that this is this is about Morgan State. No one is greater than Morgan State,” Monday said. “The number one priority is putting a program together for Morgan State and being competitive and build a building a national championship team and so that’s the focus.”

Although Morgan is currently the only HBCU to offer wrestling at the NCAA Division I level, Monday wants to establish a team that can compete with the top collegiate wrestling programs in the nation.

He said this effort starts with recruiting the top talent and having athletes determined in representing Morgan.

“My focus is to identify the top five, top 10 kids in the country and convince them that Morgan State can win, is a world class education and (they can) follow their dreams. If they want to win national championships, if they want to make the world and Olympic teams they will have that opportunity,” Monday said.

Monday understands the importance of bringing wrestling back to Morgan and plans to be actively involved with community members as he looks for ways to “fill up the gym.”

“One of my first goals is to get into the community and build a fan base, and fill that gym up,” Monday said.

Part of Monday’s first goal is already in motion.

He will be working with the Baltimore chapter of Beat the Streets, a non-profit organization committed to providing a positive environment that nurtures physical and mental development through wrestling, mentoring, and tutoring programs.

“Right away, we’ll be working closely with those guys (Beat the Streets) to build that program stronger. And I want kids to dream about coming to wrestle for Morgan State.”

When Morgan’s wrestling program was alive, they won three consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) championships from 1963 to 1965; the team also produced four NCAA Division II championships and approximately 75 All-Americans.

What’s Next for Morgan Wrestling

With one year to prepare for the relaunch of the wrestling program, Monday and Freeman-Patton are tasked with determining the conference Morgan will compete in.

Freeman-Patton hinted at competing as an independent, without a conference, for a season before reassessing the situation.

“I will be working very closely with Coach Monday and some of my colleagues in talking about where we were going to land; so we’ll use this year to explore whether we’re going to be independent first and then go to (a) conference,” said Freeman-Patton.

When asked about additions to his coaching staff, Monday was not keen to give too much away.

“One thing about wrestling is I know pretty much all the wrestling coaches that are out there and have pretty good relationships with most of the guys that are out there, so we’ll see,” he said.

Never one to give up, Monday looks forward to relishing the challenge of reestablishing Morgan as a wrestling powerhouse.

“People will say it’s impossible to develop a national champion on the D-I level here at Morgan State, people will say it’s impossible to build a national championship team here at Morgan State. Well, I thrive in those hills, so we will be against all odds,” he said.

Wrestling will return to Morgan for the 2023-24 season in the Hill Field House as Coach Monday eagerly waits to put Morgan wrestling back on the map.

Dena Freeman-Patton, Coach Kenny Monday and wife Sabrina Monday, and Morgan State University President David Wilson poses after the press conference. (Jordan D. Brown)