Navy wrestling has a new commander leading the ship.
Cary Kolat, U.S. Olympian, two-time NCAA champion and four-time PIAA champion, was named head coach of the Navy Midshipmen Friday by Chet Gladchuk, the Naval Academy’s director of athletics.
Kolat, a Rices Landing native and Jefferson-Morgan High School graduate, built Campbell University from the bottom of NCAA Division I wrestling into a Top 20 team this past season. He succeeds Joel Sharratt, who was dismissed a week ago.
Kolat won his two NCAA titles for Lock Haven, after transferring there from Penn State where he was an NCAA runner-up his freshman season and third-place finisher as a sophomore.
At Jefferson-Morgan, he compiled a 137-0 record and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the state tournament in all four of his seasons.
Kolat, who was not available for comment Saturday, informed his mother Friday that she might be hearing an announcement in the next few days.
“I was out for a walk on a trail when he called me and told me he was on his way back to Campbell from Navy,” said Judy Kolat. “He didn’t really go into any detail. But he did tell me I might see or hear something in the next couple days. Then we talked about some other things.”
Judy Kolat said she was “shocked” when she heard the news about her son being Navy’s new coach.
“We didn’t know and all of us were shocked,” she said. “After the family talked about it, we all realize this is a great opportunity for him. I think the next step is something he was thinking about and looking toward. I know it was really hard for him to leave Campbell. He put so much into that, so much hard work and time.”
Prior to the 2014-15 season, Kolat was hired to lead Campbell, located in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Before that, he served as associate head coach at North Carolina for five seasons. During his time there, Kolat was head coach at the Olympic regional training center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He previously served on wrestling staffs at Lehigh, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Lock Haven.
Campbell compiled an 11-2 record this season, including winning nine consecutive dual meets to conclude the season.
During that streak, the Camels posted a 7-0 record in the Southern Conference. Campbell won a second consecutive and third in four years SoCon Tournament title. Campbell claimed five individual championships and qualified a program-tying six wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. It was the second straight season the Camels qualified six wrestlers to the nationals, which were cancelled by the NCAA because of the Coronavirus.
“I’ve been to a lot of different places for clinics,” said Ron Headlee, head coach at Waynesburg University and Kolat’s coach at Jefferson-Morgan. “Cary’s the best clinician I have ever seen. He has a way of breaking down moves.
“I saw him in Florida this year. He has a way to teach technique better than anyone else. I know he felt this could have been the year he could get some All-Americans at Campbell. I’m am sure he is disappointed he didn’t get the opportunity to compete (in the NCAA tournament) with those guys.
“He’s ready to step up to the next level. Navy is a great program and they love Cary in Maryland. He’s in a great spot.”
Kolat, a wrestling legend, is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He’s taking over a Navy wrestling program that has not won an Eastern Wrestling Intercollegiate Association championship since 1989-90. The Midshipmen finished 13th in the nation that season.
Navy went 8-6 this past season and qualified five wrestlers for the NCAA tournament, three of them juniors.
One of Kolat’s charges will be to elevate the Navy program to the level or above that of Army’s wrestling program, which was ranked in the top 20 this season.
The Midshipmen’s wrestling program has been in existence since 1920, placing as high as fifth in the country in 1942 and 18th in 2007 and 2008.
The Midshipmen have crowned three NCAA champions, the last in 1973, and have produced 62 All-Americans.
Kolat becomes the ninth coach in Navy history. The winningest coach for the Midshipmen was Ed Peery, who won 311 dual meets from 1960-1987. Navy has won 905 dual meets overall.
After the 2017-18 season, Kolat was named 2017 USA Wrestling Women’s Co-Coach of the Year, along with Oklahoma State Coach John Smith. The two were the official 2017 Women’s World Team coaches, working with National Coach Terry Steiner and leading the U.S. women in Paris, France to an impressive second-place finish.
Kolat competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. A three-time World Cup gold medalist, he also won World silver and bronze medals.
His career also includes three U.S. Open championship medals and a pair of Pan-Am Games first-place finishes. Kolat was a member of the U.S. National Team from 1991-2002. In the summer of 2011, Kolat returned to competitive wrestling, was a finalist at the U.S. Open and competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Kolat compiled a 111-7 record in college with 53 pins. He was 50-1 at Lock Haven.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Lock Haven in 2003. He and his wife, Erin, are the parents of two daughters – Zoe and Gracie, and a son Ryder.