New Pitt wrestling head coach Keith Gavin is one fire. He has helped cultivate a groundswell of support, seen an influx of funds raided for the program and added a pair of quality transfers for next season. He can add one more accomplishment: a trio of outstanding verbal commitments. Within the last week, Hempfield High School’s Luke Kemerer, Reynolds High School Cole Matthews and Seneca Valley High School’s Louis Newell have verbally committed to the Pitt wrestling program.
Kemerer is an accomplished wrestler, boasting 6th and 3rd place finishes at states with a 4th place at Powerade last year and a career record of 107-20. Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with him about his recent decision.
“Pitt’s first contact with me was actually last year for the Penn State game. That was under a different coaching staff,” said Kemerer. “The first time I was contacted by Coach Gavin was I want to say early April. It was an unofficial visit in April then August they recently took my official. They’ve been great. They’ve been really supportive of me. They’ve believed in me the whole time.”
He was asked to elaborate about his conversations with the Pitt coaches staff. He stated, “Pretty much he told me that I can win here. They want to get local guys and I figured me, Cole Matthews, Louis Newell that if we can be the guys to kind of start things and jump start this kind of new era of the program then we want to be the guys to do it. He just believes in every one of us and that was really huge. It played a huge part in my commitment.”
Kemerer’s rapport with Keith Gavin and assistant coaches Drew Headlee and Jordan Leen factored heavily in his decision. “They all made me feel like I was right at home. Even though I’m not going too far away from home, they made me feel comfortable,” he said “I felt a real strong relationship with all of them. They’re all great guys and they just want the best for us.”
The transition from high school wrestling to college is never an easy one. When Kemerer was asked what he was working on to improve on the mat, he replied, “Pretty much getting better every day and every offset. You can always get better. There’s so much you can learn but really I don’t know if I can really pinpoint one thing. Maybe it’s just to keep working hard every day.”
“I’m expected to go 149 pounds in college. This year for my senior year I’m going either 130 or 145 pounds. I’m not sure yet.”
The WPIAL is known as a wrestling hotbed. Pitt is extraordinarily fortunate to have a plethora of talented wrestlers in its backyard. The concentration of local talent leads to heightened levels of competition. Kemerer was asked if he felt wrestling in the WPIAL has made him a better wrestler. He replied, “Yeah definitely. Whenever I go to a local club like Young Guns, we had the best guys in the country in that room and then just our county tournament alone, it’s really the best in the country. So whenever you’re faced with that competition, it’s only going to get you better,” he said.
“I started at Young Guns in the eighth grade and Coaches John and Jody Strittmatter, they’re great guys. The partners that they have in that room are incredible. Pretty much everywhere you turn there’s a guy that’s either not fully ranked or state ranked. So again when you’re faced with that competition, it makes you a lot better of a wrestler.”
“My high school head coach Vince Deaugustine has played a huge role in my development as well. He’s a fantastic coach.”
The Panthers’ recent verbal commitment, Kemerer, Matthews and Newell are far from strangers. They have crossed paths and competed against each other in the past. “Yeah I know both of them very well,” said Kemerer. “Cole Matthews has been a guy that whenever we were younger we had a little bit of a rivalry but we were always great buddies and everything. So we’ve been competing against each other from the time we were about fifth grade. So I’ve gotten to know him really well. We’re actually probably going to be rooming together in college. So we have a great relationship. Willy Newell is on my Young Guns team. So I’ve gotten to know him pretty well too.”
“I can’t wait to be a Panther!”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru