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U. Pitt-Johnstown

Pat Pecora Becomes Winningest Coach in NCAA Wrestling History



University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown head wrestling Coach Pat Pecora became the winningest coach of all time in NCAA wrestling history on Friday night when UPJ defeated 11th ranked Mercyhurst 22-13. The victory was Pecora’s 617th, surpassing Dale Thomas of Oregon State.

In all NCAA divisions, which includes I, II, III, NAIA, and Junior College, Pecora is now at the top. Thomas broke the previous record of 284 held by Joe Beglia of Kent State in 1974, and expanded his lead until he retired in 1990 with a career mark of 616-168-13. Thomas coached the Beavers for 33 years.

Similarly, Pecora’s record is now 617-151-8. He has led the Mountain Cats of UPJ for 44 seasons, and has produced a plethora of All Americans and National Champions.

“It took so many young men to contribute to it,” reflected Pecora after the match. “This isn’t a single person record, it’s hundreds or thousands maybe, of young men who put on a UPJ singlet. They’re all part of it. I still can’t believe it… it’s something I’m going to treasure.”

He is a three-time NWCA Coach of the Year, and led UPJ to NCAA team titles in 1996 and 1999, as well as 22 regional titles, and the last four PSAC dual meet titles. During his tenure, UPJ’s team finishes at NCAAs have been spectacular. In 35 of his 44 seasons they have finished top 20. Even more impressively, they have posted 23 top 10 placings, and 11 in the top 5. Individually, he has produced 154 All-Americans and 14 NCAA Champions. Most notably perhaps, is Carlton Haselrig, the only six-time NCAA Champion.

Photo courtesy of Pitt-Johnstown Athletics

Pecora is a member of several Halls of Fame, including the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches, NCAA Division II Wrestling, Pitt-Johnstown Athletics, Western Chapter of Pennsylvania Sports, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“Pitt-Johnstown congratulates our legendary wrestling Coach, Pat Pecora, for a historic achievement – the all-time winningest NCAA coach! We are enormously proud of this monumental accomplishment, which stands as a testament to his great work ethic, inspirational leadership, spirited enthusiasm, and love for his wrestling teams and UPJ. It is only fitting that the record that had stood for decades was shattered here in Johnstown, PA – a place that symbolizes the grit, hardiness, courage, and resilience of Coach P., his champion wrestlers, and our entire community. Coach P.’s victory reminds us that this place is the home of champions, past, present, and future,” said Dr. Jem Spectar, President of Pitt-Johnstown.

It was No. 5 Connor Craig’s major decision over Trever Begin at 184 on Friday night that put the match out of reach, and sealed the historic victory.

Highlights can be seen here:

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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