Jim Koch began his wrestling career in South Dakota in 1963 as a high school junior after his mother convinced the local school board to start a wrestling program. He was the captain and most valuable wrestler during both his junior and senior seasons and was the first wrestler from Milbank High School to earn a medal in the state meet after going 23-1-1 as a senior. He was recruited for both football and wrestling at South Dakota State University and was awarded SDSU's prestigious Stephen F. Briggs academic scholarship. He played one season of football as a center at SDSU but decided to concentrate on wrestling when future NFL Hall-of-Fame center Jim Langer showed up at SDSU his sophomore year. He was a member of the SDSU wrestling team for four years. After an undefeated freshman season, he was the varsity 160 pounder for NCAA II Hall of Fame coach Warren Williamson's Jackrabbits for three years. As a junior he helped his team to a third-place finish in the NCAA College Division National Championships. As a senior, he was a team co-captain. He reached the finals of the North Central Conference Championships all three years. He graduated with honors from SDSU in 1969.
Koch began his coaching career in 1969 as a graduate assistant at SDSU while working on his master's degree in physical education. The 1969-70 SDSU team finished fourth in the NCAA College Division National Tournament. Koch's highlight of the season was coaching his cousin and former high school teammate Don Trapp to the NCAA College Division National Championship at 177 pounds.
In 1970, at age 23, Koch moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin and accepted the University of Wisconsin-Parkside head wrestling coach position for its inaugural season. The 2006-07 season will be his 37th year at UW-Parkside. His 37 years coaching at the same Wisconsin university is second only to the 39 years that Byron James spent coaching at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. In his career, his teams have competed in the NCAA II Nationals 28 times and the NAIA Nationals 31 times. His wrestlers have earned 46 NCAA II and 68 NAIA All-American awards. Thirteen of his wrestlers have won national championships, three in the NCAA II and 10 in the NAIA. All of his National Champions have come from Wisconsin high schools. Fifty-five of his wrestlers have earned Academic All-American honors, 42 in the NCAA II and 13 in the NAIA. Eighteen of his teams have finished in the top ten at a National Tournament seven in the NCAA II and 11 in the NAIA. Three of his wrestlers have been inducted into the NAIA National Wrestling Hall of Fame and one into the NCAA II Wrestling Hall of Fame. Two of his former wrestlers, Bill West and Ken Martin have been inducted into the George Martin Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame. His team's overall dual meet record is 244-145-7.
Koch has received many coaching awards. In 1971, he was selected by Amateur Wrestling News as the Rookie College Coach of the Year. He was named by his fellow coaches as the Wisconsin NAIA Wrestling Coach of the Year a total of six times. In 1975, he was the team leader for the first NAIA Cultural Exchange Wrestling Team to tour Japan and Korea. In 1993, he was inducted into the NAIA National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and in 2000 he was inducted into the NCAA II Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 1994, his team won the first-ever NCAA II Academic National Championship Award. In 1995, he received the Ralph Ginn Coaching Award from South Dakota State University, awarded each year to an outstanding alumnus in the coaching profession. In 2003, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored him with a lifetime service award. He was selected as the 2005-2006 NCAA II Midwest Regional Coach of the Year and the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association College Coach of the Year.
Koch has served the sport of wrestling and the NCAA II and NAIA in many leadership capacities. From 1977 to 1995 he was the chairman of the NAIA National Hall of Fame Committee and supervised the induction of more than 70 members. Since 1995 he has held the same position with the NCAA II and has overseen the induction of 66 members. He has also served as president of both the NAIA National Wrestling Coaches Association (1984-85) and the NCAA II National Wrestling Coaches Association (1990-92). He is currently a member of the NCAA National Wrestling Committee. Koch was also instrumental in establishing the requirements for the academic All-American awards for both the NAIA and NCAA II and he still directs the NCAA II selection committee. In 1982, 1990 and 2002, Koch served as the host coach of the NCAA II Nationals. He has directed camps and clinics at UW-Parkside, which have brought more than 6,000 high school students to the campus.
Koch is single and lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He is a professor in the UW-Parkside Health, Physical Education and Athletics Department. His interests include jogging, weight lifting, picture framing, raising golden retrievers and Notre Dame football.