Former Iowa City High state champion Cory Connell is returning to his alma mater.
According to a Facebook status, Connell wrote that he has accepted the head coaching position for the Little Hawks after six seasons guiding Class 1A Eddyville-Blakesburg. Connell replaces longtime coach Brad Smith, who announced he will retire from coaching and teaching at the end of the school year.
“It has been a tough decision to make because I will be leaving behind a lot of people I care a great deal about but I am excited to go back to my home town and closer to family,” Connell wrote in his status update. A late phone call to Connell was not immediately returned.
Connell elevated the Rockets to new heights in six seasons, leading them to five top-10 state tournament finishes including a 1A runner-up performance in 2010. He also led Eddyville-Blakesburg to the state duals for the first time in school history in 2010, earning 1A Coach of the Year honors from the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. Connell posted a 91-54 dual record with the Rockets, and coached wrestlers to the school’s first three state individual titles - Jake Demmon (119) in 2008 and Dimitri Boyer, who won the 145 and 152 pound titles in 2009 and 2010. Eddyville-Blakesburg had 17 state medalists and 27 state qualifiers under Connell.
As a competitor, Connell had a 146-12 mark at City High under Smith, ranking fifth at the school in career wins. He won the 3A 130-pound state championship in 2000 after placing third as a junior and sophomore. Connell ranks second in consecutive falls (12 in 2000) and fastest fall (:09 in 2000) in Little Hawk history. His 26 pins in 2000 is the fourth best in a season at City High.
Connell was a letterwinner for the University of Iowa (2002-03) and went on to become an NCAA Division III runner-up at 157 for Wartburg in 2004.
Smith, 58, coached for 34 seasons, including the last 21 at City High. smith Coached City High to state team titles in 1992, 1999 and 2002, and runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2001. His Little Hawk teams completed state title sweeps in 1999 and 2002. The Little Hawks have struggled recently, placing 33rd at the 3A state tournament with eight points this season.