UPJ’s Pat Pecora, faculty wrestling’s winningest coach, retains climbing

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Final Friday at Pitt-Johnstown, Pat Pecora did one thing he by no means thought would’ve been attainable when he began teaching wrestling 44 years in the past.

With a number of alumni in attendance, Pecora’s No. 4-ranked Mountain Cats defeated No. 11-ranked Mercyhurst, 22-12, and the longtime UPJ coach earned his 617th profession win, making him faculty wrestling’s all-time wins chief as he handed former Oregon State coach Dale Thomas’s mark of 616.

“It’s been a bit overwhelming, and it’s just a little onerous to consider,” Pecora stated. “It’s a little bit of a whirlwind with all the consideration that’s been dropped at it, but it surely’s one thing I’m having fun with and I’m making an attempt to benefit from the second. It’s one thing we’ve labored onerous at, and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Earlier than Pecora climbed to the highest of the NCAA twin meet wins listing, he got here from humble beginnings, each at UPJ and at residence in Pittsburgh. Rising up, he remembered wrestling along with his brothers within the household room. He and his two brothers would push the furnishings up in opposition to the wall and reenact the strikes of Bruno Sammartino, Johnny DeFazio and others.

Then, Pecora’s older brother Richie began to wrestle, and Pat shortly caught on. As quickly as he had the chance, he joined the game as properly.

“He began taking me to some practices with him,” Pecora stated. “So the very first thing I did once I received to highschool was exit for the wrestling workforce due to my brothers.”

After his highschool profession, Pecora went on to wrestle at West Liberty State School, the place he had a profitable profession. However as quickly as he was executed with faculty, he jumped proper into his future profession.

His first teaching job occurred within the WPIAL. He found a gap at East Allegheny via his uncle, Frank Cortazzo, who was the soccer coach and the athletic director on the time. Pecora solely coached at the highschool degree for a yr earlier than being employed at UPJ at age 22.

“My buddy had seen an advert within the paper for a wrestling coach, and I had identified in regards to the faculty via wrestling in faculty,” Pecora stated. “I didn’t understand it on the time, so it was kinda bizarre, however I put a resume within the mail and earlier than it, I received a telephone name. One interview changed into one other and hastily, I’m up right here in Johnstown.”

In Pecora’s first yr on the helm, the Mountain Cats solely had 5 wrestlers, so Pecora stated he pulled his first recruiting class out of the college’s cafeteria.

“I might sit within the cafeteria and attempt to discover guys coming in with highschool wrestling shirts,” Pecora stated.

Slowly however certainly, this system began to achieve traction. They went 4-12 in his first yr, however after bringing in his first recruiting class, the Mountain Cats went 12-Four in his second yr going up in opposition to the identical schedule. From there, he stated they’ve by no means actually regarded again.

“We used to apply on a stage, then we had a small fitness center for a pair years, then we practiced off campus for a pair years,” Pecora stated. “So we’ve come from very humble beginnings. We got here from the underside. We’ve been on an extended journey to get the place we’re at.”

Similar to any program, UPJ has its’ keys to success, and Pecora believes it comes right down to the kind of household that they’ve established.

The Pittsburgh native stated he at all times tells those that when he began teaching, he didn’t actually have a set philosophy. He developed one on the fly and leaned on his core household values.

“I grew up in a really close-knit household and I coached the way in which that my mom and father raised their youngsters,” he stated. “I felt if I used to be a superb coach, my wrestlers could be shut, and so they’d be keen to work for one another, and so they’d be proud of serving to another person succeed.”

Pecora described his teaching philosophy as having just a few levels. Within the early elements of his profession, it was the older-brother stage, then it changed into the young-uncle stage. Now, in his 44th yr, Pecora says he believes he’s nonetheless within the father section of his profession.

“Now, I solely received one stage left,” Pecora stated with amusing.

The teaching type and tradition that Pecora has constructed continues to pay dividends yr after yr. Throughout his time at UPJ, Pecora has been named NWCA Coach of the Yr thrice. He’s led the Mountain Cats to NCAA Division II nationwide championships in 1996 and ’99.

UPJ has additionally captured 22 NCAA regional titles and 4 consecutive PSAC workforce championships below Pecora. Additionally, the Mountain Cats are 20-Three total this season and 6-Zero in PSAC contests. So with all of the success that Pecora has produced over final 4 and a half many years, what’s subsequent?

“We’re simply gonna preserve climbing and see if we are able to preserve getting higher day by day,” Pecora stated. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what life is all about.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Overview employees author. You’ll be able to contact Greg by e-mail at [email protected] or by way of Twitter .


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