Following 26 years at the helm of the Roadrunner wrestling program, T.J. Kerr announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He turned the reigns over to longtime assistant, and alumni, Mike Mendoza, but remains a part of the program as the volunteer coach beginning in 2011.
With more than three decades as a collegiate head wrestling coach, simply mentioning the name T.J. Kerr will elicit an understanding that the long-time leader of the Bakersfield wrestling program is known nationally as a consistent producer of some of the top wrestlers in the nation. His work ethic is second-to-none, and the blue-collar attitude that he instills into each of his wrestlers creates an unparalleled atmosphere in CSUB’s wrestling room.
But with the hard-working Kerr comes another side of him that very few people see. He is a leader, an animal lover, and a friend to his athletes. He is committed to what he feels is right, from his coaching to his athletes to his personal relationships. He enjoys his time away from practice and away from Bakersfield when he travels into what Kerr himself describes only as, “the wilderness.”
Of course, Kerr’s wrestling credentials could fill a book. Through the 2010 season, his 26th as head coach of the Roadrunners, Kerr was not only the first at CSUB to move to the NCAA Division I level, but he also lifted the program up to among the best in the nation’s top level of collegiate wrestling. He is a three-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year, winning the award in 1996 when the Roadrunners won their first Pac-10 title. That honor was sandwiched by awards in 1991 and 1997, years in which CSUB placed second in the conference.
In addition, Kerr was honored in 2005 by being inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame and in 2007, was named the Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year.
Kerr led the Roadrunners to a second Pac-10 title in 1999. Since joining the conference in 1988, CSUB has finished in the top three of the Pac-10 on nine different occasions.
At the national level, Kerr has led CSUB to amazing results considering that the enrollment of the school is just 8,000 students. It would be difficult to find a university with such a small enrollment that has consistently found such success at the NCAA Division I level as CSUB has under Kerr. Since moving the Roadrunners up to Division I in 1988, Kerr has led CSUB to a 236-142-4 (.624) dual meet record and seven top-12 finishes at the NCAA Division I Championships.
The pinnacle of his success came in 1996 when the Roadrunners placed third at the NCAA Division I Championships behind Midwest powerhouses Iowa and Iowa State. That achievement, coupled with a Pac-10 title in the same year, earned Kerr National Wrestling Coach of the Year honors from the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA).
Before the move to Division I, Kerr coached CSUB for three seasons at the Division II level. During that time, the Roadrunners won three Division II West Regional titles and were national champions in 1987. In each of CSUB’s three seasons in Division II under Kerr, the Roadrunners finished no lower than seventh place. Kerr was also named the Division II Coach of the Year in 1987, the same season that former CSUB Assistant Strength Coach Darryl Pope was named Outstanding Wrestler.
Kerr coached at his alma mater, San Jose State, for 12 seasons before coming to CSUB. In that time, the Spartans won 10 Pacific Coast Athletic Association titles and finished second in the other two years. For his dominating efforts at SJSU, Kerr won PCAA Coach of the Year honors seven times. The high point for Kerr in his tenure at SJSU came in 1982 when the Spartans not only won the PCAA title, but also placed ninth at the NCAA Division I Championships, their highest finish with Kerr at the helm. In 2008, Kerr was inducted into the Spartan Athletic Hall of Fame.
Kerr was awarded with the highest honor in wrestling in the state of California in 2005 when he was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame. That honor follows his earlier hall of fame induction in 1999 when he was inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame.
But there is plenty more to Kerr than simply coaching wrestling. From 1993-96 he was president of the NWCA when he led the fight to reform Title IX. While Kerr supports creating opportunity for women, he argues that taking opportunity away from men is a violation of Title IX.
During his tenure as president of the NWCA, Kerr testified in front of a U.S. Congress subcommittee in May 1995 on the subject of Title IX. He increased the budget for the NWCA, reorganized the Board of Directors, and hired staff at the NWCA office for the first time. Kerr also improved several NWCA events, including the All-Star Classic, the National Duals and the Scholastic Wrestling Showcase.
Closer to home, Kerr is an integral part of the campus community. He is a member of the Budget and Planning Committee for the CSUB Academic Senate. Outside of his official capacities, Kerr is always quick to voice his opinions in hopes of not only improving his own wrestling program, but the athletic department as a whole.
Away from wrestling, Kerr enjoys escaping the rigors of city life and moving into the wilderness. Accompanied by his longtime girlfriend Martha, his border collie Tommy Ray, and his four mules Ellie, Burt, Roy and Charmin, Kerr regularly goes packing in the nearby Golden Trout Wilderness located in the Sequoia and Inyo national forests. Kerr also spends time each summer with his son Ryan in Canada for a float-plane fishing trip.
Kerr also teaches self defense and outdoor education classes. The culmination of the outdoor education class includes a three-day backpacking trip, that regularly include students, athletes, assistant coaches, wives, girlfriends and family.
• 236-142-4 (.624) dual meet record in 26 years
• Pac-10 conference champions in 1996 and ’99
• 11 top-25 national finishes
• Five top-10 national finishes
• Third-place NCAA Division I finish in 1996
• 10 top-three finishes in the Pac-10 (20 years)
• 2007 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year
• 1996 NWCA Coach of the Year
• Three-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1991, 1996, 1997)
• 1987 NCAA Division II team champions
• Three NCAA Division I champions
• Six NCAA Division II champions (3 seasons)
• 29 NCAA Division I All-Americans
• 17 NCAA Division II All-Americans (3 seasons)
• 29 Pac-10 champions
• 166 Pac-10 placewinners
• Five Olympians
• One world champion
• Five world championships qualifiers
• Three world championship placewinners
• Five USA National Freestyle champions
• One USA National Greco-Roman champion
• Three Pan-Am Games Freestyle champions
• One Pan-Am Games Greco-Roman champion