Ex-Iowa grapplers St. John, Lofthouse now coaches

Derek St. John knew he wanted coaching to be in his future. Ethen Lofthouse couldn’t pass up the chance to return home.

Both former Iowa wrestlers jumped into the coaching circle Thursday when they accepted offers to be an assistant wrestling coach.

St. John, the 2013 157-pound national champion, will coach at North Dakota State this year, while Lofthouse decided to return to his home state of Utah to join the staff at Utah Valley University.

St. John was a four-time All-American at Iowa and a two-time state champion for coach Mark Reiland at Iowa City West High School. He called the North Dakota State job a “perfect fit and the perfect opportunity” to begin his career as a wrestling coach.

“I feel really good about it,” said St. John, who also placed fourth as a freshman, second as a sophomore and fifth in his final season at Iowa. “It’s a chance to keep my wrestling career going and start my career as a coach. I figured I would go into coaching at some point. I really enjoy it. I’ve been wrestling pretty much my whole life, so it’s something I know well.”

St. John graduated from Iowa in May with a degree in business studies. He plans to be an assistant coach at NDSU but also plans to continue wrestling and training at the international level with an eye toward the 2016 Olympic Games.

“We are thrilled to be able to add a guy of Derek’s caliber,” said Bison head coach Roger Kish. “His values, philosophy and vision are right in line with what we expect at NDSU. He’s proven himself as one of the nation’s elite competitors and his achievements at the Big Ten and NCAA levels speak for themselves.”

Lofthouse couldn’t turn down a chance to coach at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, which is just a two-hour drive away from his hometown of Avon, Utah.

Lofthouse will join head coach Greg Williams’ staff and return to the state where he was a four-time state champion for Mountain Crest High School, going 192-7 in his four prep years.

“I am really excited to be on the other side of the sport,” said Lofthouse, who was a two-time Big Ten Conference runner-up and a four-time NCAA qualifier. “Hopefully I can relate well to the guys on the team and help them to reach their full potential as wrestlers. To me, it was a no-brainer to take it. It’s good to be back home and to get my foot in the door at the NCAA Divsion I level. That’s something I have always wanted to do.”

Utah Valley is a member of the Western Wrestling Conference and the program finished 6-9 last year in duals, was fourth in the NCAA West Regional and ended up tied for 64th at the NCAA Championships. Utah Valley’s roster also includes Ethen’s younger brother, Raider Lofthouse.

“We’re excited to have Ethen join our staff,” said Williams. “He brings a lot of great experience and work ethic here to our program. We’re looking forward to having him bring that experience with him to Utah Valley.”