Lauren Rabaino

The wrestling team plans to use the talents of 1997 Pan-American Games silver medalist Aaron Simpson, the team’s new volunteer assistant coach.

A former Arizona State athlete and coach who worked with heavier weight wrestlers for nine seasons, Simpson hopes to “make a couple of All-Americans.”

“I’m going to do what I can to make them better,” he said. “(John Azevedo and Sammie Henson) are great coaches, but they’re smaller so they can’t get on the mat with (the upperweights) like I can.”

Simpson, who still lives in Tempe, Ariz. and flies to San Luis Obispo for practices, works with all the athletes but specializes in 165-pounds, 184-pounds and 197-pounds.

Heavyweight Jim Powers had heard of Simpson before he came to coach the team.

“He’s an awesome coach,” Powers said. “We’re excited he’s here. He’s pretty popular in the wrestling world.”

At ASU, Simpson led six athletes to All-American honors, six to Pac-10 Championship crowns and two to earn Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year. He also guided the Sun Devils to four Pac-10 titles.

“We added him because he’s a great coach who we knew could work with our upperweights,” head coach John Azevedo said. “We’re taking it one year at a time. He really fills out our staff.”

Simpson is also training Azevedo, who hopes to enter the Olympic Trials in May and June.

Simpson has a number of accomplishments under his belt other than his silver medal at 187-pounds. The former USA National Team member also competed in the 2000 through 2004 Olympic Team Trials and worked freestyle with the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club. He was a member of the inaugural season of Real Pro Wrestling and competed for the Texas Shooters.

Simpson, who graduated from ASU in May 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting, was a two-time All-American with the Sun Devils and placed fourth at the 1998 NCAA meet. As a Sun Devil he racked up 110 career wins, the 12th highest at ASU, as well as the eighth-highest number of career dual victories at 53.

During his senior season at ASU, in which he was frequently ranked second in the nation, Simpson posted a 34-4 slate with a 20-0 dual mark and claimed his second Pac-10 championship. He was named the “Outstanding Wrestler” of the Cliff Keen National Duals with a 5-0 mark.

He also earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors in 1996-98 and received the Varsity “A” Association Bill Kajikawa Outstanding Male Senior Award.

At Antelope Union High School in Wellton, Ariz., he was a four-time state champion and a three-time All-American.

The wrestling team also added assistant coach Sammie Henson in September. An Olympic silver medalist and two-time national champion, Henson came to Cal Poly after volunteering as assistant coach at the University of Nebraska.

He won the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney games as well as at the 1998 World Championship for the United States in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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