North Central College head wrestling coach Joe Norton ’10/M ’12 (pictured above) displayed a relentless commitment to success inside and outside of the competitive arena this past season. He was recognized for his effort as the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Coach of the Year and National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Lower Midwest Region Coach of the Year.
In his fourth season as the Cardinals’ head coach, Norton led the team to a 12-2 record in dual-meet competition and a No. 12 national ranking. Norton led North Central to the conference team title, claiming the program’s first conference crown since 2010 and the seventh in its history.
The regional Coach of the Year Award honors a coach who demonstrates outstanding effort throughout the season in developing and elevating a wrestling program on campus and in the community. Norton serves as the staff advisor for North Central’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which coordinates several charitable and service initiatives throughout the academic year. Cultivating greater engagement with the College’s faculty has resulted in more prominent recognition of wrestlers’ academic achievements.
“We make becoming an Academic All-American a goal from their first day on campus,” said Norton. “We honor the Academic All-Americans with their picture in Nichols Gym and certificates on the wall in the coaching offices, just as we do with the NCAA Athletic All-Americans.”
Faculty mentors Nicholas Mauro, assistant professor of physics, and Bill Wienke, assistant professor of kinesiology, make sure that team members are on track in their courses—communicating with their professors and managing their academic paths to graduation. “This year, Dr. Mauro started to check in with every single professor who taught a class with a wrestler in it—quite the task,” added Norton. Participation in study tables is also required.
“Joe has instilled in his athletes a mentality that carries over to all aspects of their lives,” said Neil Nicholson, associate professor of mathematics and faculty athletic representative to the NCAA. “We as faculty see it every day when the wrestlers are in our classes. They are striving to put forth their best effort, both in their classroom preparation and performance.”
This commitment to academic diligence resulted in the team achieving a 3.14 grade point average and Michael Bikulcius ’18, Josh Bouie ’19, Emonte Logan ’18, Moe Mitchell ’20 and Tyler Vittal ’19 making the NWCA All-Academic Team. It marked the first time five Cardinals made the list in a single season and represented the fifth-highest number of All-Academic athletes of any NCAA Division III team in the nation.
“Joe is an excellent representative of the best of what we embrace about the NCAA Division III philosophy,” said athletic director Jim Miller ’86. “Joe has not only worked very hard to recruit and develop good wrestlers, he’s found ways to acknowledge outstanding effort in the classroom.”