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Wrestling: Husker Legend James Green Returning to Lincoln as Assistant Coach

Not only is Green coming out of athletic retirement to train at the NWTC, he’ll also serve as a full-time assistant for the Huskers

Freestyle World Cup 2017 in Iran
James Green (left), is returning to his alma mater to serve as a full-time assistant coach for the Husker wrestling program.
Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It was already known that Husker legend James Green was coming out of retirement to train at the Nebraska Wrestling Training Center, now he’ll officially be on staff as a full-time assistant coach too.

Head coach Mark Manning announced this morning that Green will be added to the Husker staff to replace the departing Robert Kokesh who is leaving to take over the family farm.

“We’re going to miss Robert. He’s got the opportunity to take over his mom and dad’s farm — his dad’s retiring,” Manning said. “He’s been great and really grown into a great coach. He just feels it’s the right thing for him to do for him and his family.”

Adding Green to the staff was not only a “no-brainer,” but the timing of everything worked out perfectly with Green already set to be back in Lincoln as an athlete after he’s done in his current role as USA Wrestling’s National Freestyle Developmental Coach.

“I’m excited to just be around it and see what that’s like,” Green said of being a college coach. “I’m just excited to have the opportunity to share my knowledge of the sport and help develop these young men on and off the mat.”

As a Husker, Green was Nebraska’s second four-time All-American. With his 129-22 career record for the Huskers, Green placed seventh at NCAAs twice and third twice. He also won a Big Ten Championship in 2014.

“He was at Nebraska for 10 years — as an athlete and as an RTC guy,” Manning said. “He knows our program and the principles of our program — the culture. He’s going to be a valuable piece. When you’re alumni at a place, it means more, and he’s going to give a lot to our student athletes.”

After his college career, Green turned into one of the best wrestlers in the world at 70kg. He made six world teams between 2015 and 2021 — winning bronze in 2015 and silver in 2017.

And he’s not done yet. After successful hip surgery at the end of last year, Green is feeling better than ever and is eager to get back on the mat and competing for World and Olympic teams.

“James is going to bring a lot of value — not only in the room but as a competitor,” Manning said. “He wants to win at the highest level, and that’s what our guys will pick up. I think he’s a great example of excellence on and off the mat.”

As an athlete, Green is planning on getting back to training after he finishes coaching the U20 World Team at the World Championships next week. With the turnaround for the Olympic Trials in April so short, Green plans on staying at 70kg and working toward making a World Team in 2025 rather than trying to cut to 65kg or bulk up to 74kg (since 70kg isn’t an Olympic weight) to make a 2024 Olympic run.

“We’re just going to focus on 70kg. With the (Olympic) trials being in April, I don’t think that’s fair to myself and my body to try to either bulk up or cut that weight in that short amount of time,” Green said. “When I get back August 20, that’ll be my first week committing myself to training again. I’m feeling really good, I’m excited.”

Spending just over a year as a coach for USA Wrestling will only help the Huskers in recruiting some of the best high-schoolers in the country.

“They get to talk to me and I can get to know them a little bit better because I’m not recruiting them to a school. I was able to get to know a lot of kids of different backgrounds. I think that will help me a lot,” Green said. “With the whole USA Wrestling developmental camps, not just the U17 and U20 guys but we do some U15 stuff as well. We had a little development camp right before Fargo and just to see some of those kids do well in both freestyle and Greco. For me to have a relationship with them, that’ll go a long way.”

Coach Manning certainly agrees with that assessment.

“It’s pretty attractive if I was a lightweight guy and I see Nebraska bringing James Green back as an RTC athlete and now as a full-time staff member,” Manning said. “We’ve already been in on some of these (elite) guys. It’s just going to add a layer of trust and belief since they’ve been around James. I think it’s tremendous — it adds validity with James coming back and training at Nebraska, and now he’s going to be coaching.”

As far as this year’s team goes, Green has been keeping close tabs on the Husker program and a roster he sees as extremely talented.

“On the outside looking in, they had a great year last year. I know that Manning has been very consistent with the guys that he recruits and getting people on the podium,” Green said. “I’m excited because the guys there right now have the potential and can get on top of that podium as a Big Ten champ and national champ. I’m excited to be a part of that process.”

With all the talent that Nebraska has on the roster, Manning is obviously excited to see what Green will add.

“He’s really made a mark in a short amount of time the last two years at USA Wrestling. I know they didn’t want to lose him,” Manning said. “And now he has a chance to come back to his alma mater. This guy has got some experience underneath his belt. He comes back to Nebraska not only as a Husker, but he’s got a lot of experience and knowledge that he’s going to be able to share with our student athletes.”