The longest tenured coach on the Marist campus, VanWagner came to the Poughkeepsie campus in 1976 just prior to the completion (1977) of the James J. McCann Recreation Center, which houses the school's natatorium. Under his direction, Marist College elevated its swimming and diving program to the varsity level in 1978 and, in 37 seasons, has risen to the top of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. The largest conference in the country, the ECAC includes 80 Division I members. Coach VanWagner's men's squad has captured 14 conference championships including the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title in the school's first 10 years of competition in the league. The Marist women's squad has captured 21 conference championships: 17 MAAC, two Metro and two ECAC. In addition, the Red Foxes have had 41 individual Metropolitan Conference Champions and 164 individual MAAC Champions.
With wins by the men and women against Fairfield on November 6, 2015, in McCann Natatorium, VanWagner reached 350 victories for his career. At the end of the 2016 season, the men's program had a .649 overall dual meet winning percentage and .835 in MAAC competition. The women's winning percentage stood at .738 overall and .942 in the MAAC. Between the two programs, Marist has had victories in 88.9 percent of their regular season conference competitions.
Individually, VanWagner was named ECAC Coach of the Meet in 2005, 2006, and 2010, and MAAC Coach of the Year in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
During his undergraduate studies at Springfield College, where he graduated with a B.S. and a M.P.E. in physical education and athletic administration, VanWagner swam under the legendary Charles "Red" Silvia. While a member of the varsity team, VanWagner captained the Chiefs to a New England Championship while earning All-American honors in 1974.
Dedicated to the teaching and promotion of the sport of swimming, VanWagner also serves as the Director and Head Coach of the Marist Swim Club, a USS program which has achieved national recognition and placed dozens of high school graduates into Division I universities. In its 38-year history, the program has produced numerous champions including: 11 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers, six world-ranked swimmers, six Junior National Champions, 96 ESG Champions, two U.S. National Junior Team members, 16 U.S. National Championship qualifiers and more than 148 Metropolitan JO Champions.
A Hyde Park native, VanWagner presently resides in Lagrangeville, N.Y., with his wife Ginny.