"When I came back, I told her, 'I could coach there. I can win there,'" he said. "I knew that with the type of people that are in Morgantown and the surrounding areas, that's how I was raised. I knew I could recruit Sammie Hensons and it would be a nice place for me to live."
Five years later, that became a reality as the former Missouri head assistant coach was introduced as the eighth head wrestling coach at West Virginia Monday morning.
Henson comes to WVU with an accomplished record as both a coach and a wrestler during his career. He has spent the last three seasons at Missouri and has also had stints as the head assistant at Oklahoma - where he began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant in 1997 - and Cal Poly. He also had stops as an assistant coach at Nebraska, Army and Penn State.
In addition to his college coaching jobs, he has been the head coach of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, which has more current world and Olympic wrestlers than any club in the nation, since 2011.
Getting a coach with that type of track record, and one who has had as much experience coaching in the Big 12 as Henson has, was something WVU athletic director Oliver Luck was looking for first and foremost as they looked for candidates to take over for former head coach Craig Turnbull. Luck made the decision to not renew Turnbull's contract after the Mountaineers failed to record a win against a Big 12 opponent in the team's first two seasons in the conference.
"It's a great conference, but it's really deep even though there are only three other schools. They're all top teams every year, and (Sammie) knows that," Luck said. "We can be competitive, I have no doubt about that. Wrestling is an individual sport, so you really have to have the right people to succeed.
"There are other sports where we struggled early on. Volleyball didn't win a conference match the first year in the Big 12 and last year we won five. We know it's a challenging conference, but we've tried to bring in the right people so we can be competitive."
A Silver medalist in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Henson is looking forward to hitting the ground running in Morgantown to get his tenure started.
While it's late in the process, he said he is eager to begin recruiting in an area where the Mountaineers have a considerable geographic advantage over the rest of the Big 12 schools when it comes to competing for high-level prospects from the wrestling hotbeds of western Pennsylvania and Ohio. During his time at Penn State, both recruiting classes Henson helped bring in were ranked in the top five nationally, and he was part of securing the No. 2 class in the country at Oklahoma.
With the facilities WVU has in place and the amount of work he is prepared to put in, mixed with the fact that some of the best high school wrestlers in the country are just a little more than an hour away, Henson sees the potential for that trend to be able to continue at West Virginia.
"Recruiting is everything. My philosophy in life is that consistency wins. If you're consistent over time in the things you do, you'll succeed. That means on the mat, in the classroom and in the community," he said. "We have to recruit our state and the surrounding areas. That's where you build your fanbase. We want to get the best kids out of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
"Whoever the best kids in the country are, we're going to go after them."