James Hicks begins his ninth season as head coach at Cumberland in 2022-23 after serving three years in the same capacity at Darton State College in Albany, Ga.
Hicks had his first NAIA National Champion this past season as Cole Smith went a perfect 29-0 on the year to win the program's fifth individual NAIA National Championship. Alongside Smith, Carter Cox, Anthony Maia, and Keshawn Laws earned NAIA All-Americans each finishing eighth in their respective weight-class. The team finished eighth overall in 2022.
Hicks led the Phoenix last season to their highest finish in program history as Cumberland finished in fifth place as a team at the NAIA National Championships. The team also had five All-Americans, the most from one team in a season at Cumberland. Esco Walker finished as the National Runner-Up in the 133-weight class. Cole Smith, Carter Cox, Anthony Maia, and Patrick Depiazza also earned All-American honors.
Hicks led the Phoenix to the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship in his first year at the helm of the program, tying for the team title for the program's first-ever MSC title. For his efforts, he was voted Mid-South Conference West Division Coach of the Year. Sammy Rosario, Nate Croley, Orlando Nawade, Kyle Delaune and Dustin Harris all earned Second Team All-Mid-South honors and Croley went on to garner All-America accolades at 157.
In addition, eight student-athletes were named Academic All-Mid-South Conference and Peter Donchev and Nick Paden were recognized as NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
In both 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, wrestling has had two athletes receive All-America honors - Anothony Maia and Nathan Walton in 2018-19 and Patrick Depiazza and Nathan Walton in 2019-20. Maia reached the national tournament semifinals and Walton reached the seventh place event. In 2020, Walton finished in third place and Depiazza captured seventh.
In 2016-17, three student-athletes earned All-America honors for the Phoenix – Rosario, Croley, and Delaune – tying for the most All-Americans in a single season in program history. Croley was voted Second Team All-Mid-South while nine athletes were named Academic All-Mid-South and Matt Carroll, Evan Cole, and Peter Donchev was recognized as NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
Hicks produced two national champions and six junior college All-Americans during his three seasons at Darton State. The Belle Glade, Fla., native was named Region III Eastern District II Coach of the Year in each of the last two seasons for the Cavaliers and the team won the Eastern District II Championship in both campaigns as well.
Twenty-two wrestlers qualified for the NJCAA national tournament over his three years, including nine in 2015 and eight in 2014. The team finished in the Top 25 at the national tourney all three seasons, including 14th in 2015 and 17th in 2014. Darton State also placed third each of his last two years in the non-scholarship division of the NJCAA National Championships. In addition, five wrestlers garnered Academic All-America honors under Hicks’ tutelage.
Hicks served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Campbellsville University, for four years, with the Tigers placing in the Top 7 at the NAIA Championship in three of those campaigns. Campbellsville won the East Region Qualifier in his final season as an assistant in 2012 and finished in the Top 5 at the NWCA National Duals in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The Tigers also won the Mid-South Conference regular-season title in each of his last three years with the program.
During his time as an assistant coach, Campbellsville produced a pair of national champions, 19 NAIA All-Americans, 47 national qualifiers, 10 East Region champions, 17 Mid-South Conference champions and seven NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
Hicks was a three-time NAIA national qualifier and a Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete during his wrestling career at Campbellsville as well as a three-year starter for the Tigers. He was a member of the 2006 NAIA National Championship club at Dana College in Blair, Neb., ranking as high as sixth nationally and receiving the team’s Freshman of the Year award. He placed fourth as a senior at the FHSAA State Championships for Glades Central High School.
Hicks received his bachelor’s in Physical Education from Campbellsville in 2009.