It could have been just about any Pitt-Johnstown wrestling match over the past 36 years.
With Pat Pecora pacing at the edge of the mat, his Mountain Cats tore apart the competition on it.
Major decision after major decision, pin after pin, bonus point after bonus point, Pitt-Johnstown did Tuesday night what it has done best under Pecora: Win.
No. 8 UPJ won nine of
10 bouts in a 39-3 thrashing of Shippensburg that was similar to so many other dual meets in Pecora’s tenure but that was different in one major way: It marked Pecora’s 500th career victory.
He is just the fifth wrestling coach in NCAA history to reach the milestone and is the all-time leader in Division II victories.
Pecora, 58, has said he
doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, but when he does stop and reflect on what he’s been able to accomplish over the past 36 years, he focuses on names more than numbers.
“I just think about all the young men that have come through our program,” Pecora said. “I’m just so proud of them. I’m so proud of the kind of young men the program produces. Because after you’re here for five years, you’re a good one.”
On Tuesday night, the Mountain Cats (12-3) were proud of their coach as well.
“I’m happy for Coach,” said Nathan Link, a senior
149-pounder from Penn Cambria. “He’s a great guy. He’s helped me throughout my career, and I’m proud of him.”
Link had one of UPJ’s three major decisions – 125-pounder Dave Fogle, a Forest Hills graduate, and 157-pounder Zach Lundgren had the others. Gary Lantz (184 pounds) and Jon Moore (197) had back-to-back pins for the Mountain Cats.
“It’s a good solid win and I’m proud of all the guys tonight,” Pecora said. “I really am. I know they wanted to do it for me. They’ve been talking about it, and they put on a good performance.”
UPJ was dominant in almost every way. The Mountain Cats had a 21-4 takedown edge on Shippensburg (12-11). They picked up a bonus point for riding time in six of the seven matches that went the distance.
And they did in the way the Pecora way.
“That’s our style, where we’re out stalking,” he said. “We’re in people’s faces. We’re scoring takedowns. We’re looking for backpoints. We’re building on leads. We’re not sitting on leads.”
That was evident from the first bout, where Fogle scored a takedown in every period for an 8-0 victory over Colton Keck.
Then, Ryan Link followed with an impressive 6-2 victory over Cody Myers, a Southern Huntingdon graduate who had beaten the Penn Cambria alumnus badly in high school.
Jack Bachman’s 3-2 victory over Simon Rice at 141 gave UPJ a 10-0 lead and Nathan Link stretched it to 14-0 by scoring two third-period takedowns for a 10-2 major of Ean Starner.
“Just keep building off your lead – nonstop – and most of the matches we did that tonight,” Nathan Link said.
“I’m pretty proud of the guys.”
Lundgren’s 11-3 victory over James Reilly at 157 typified the UPJ style. Lundgren scored three third-period takedowns
– including the final one with 20 seconds remaining – to clinch the major.
“That’s the system,” Pecora said. “It’s in-you-face and very intense, run back to the middle of the circle and keep building on the score. We did that tonight.”
After Neil Grudi beat Laurel Valley graduate Myers Miller
9-2 at 165 for Shippensburg’s only victory, the Mountain Cats went back on the attack.
Travis McKillop racked up 4½ minutes of riding time in a 7-1 victory over Luke Etter at 174 before Lantz pinned Tyler Zittle at 184. Moore followed with a pin of Keith Dahlheimer just nine seconds into the second period.
Josh Krupa won by injury default at 285 pounds after Shippensburg’s Dan Estricher was injured on a shot attempt by Krupa.
“I liked the way everybody wrestled tonight,” Pecora said.
“All of the matches that we won, we were doing things that I like to see.”
Pecora said last week that he hopes to be around for win
No. 600. If he does that, he’d be within striking distance of the all-time record of 618 victories set by former Oregon State coach Dale Thomas, who coached the Beavers from
It’s a mark Seth Bloomquist, who is in his third season as Shippensburg’s head coach, can’t even fathom.
“No,” Bloomquist said simply when asked if he could put Pecora’s 500 wins into perspective.
“Coach Pecora is a class act and certainly a Hall of Fame coach. I’ve known Coach Pecora for the 10 years I’ve been with this program. I’ve become good friends with him. Congratulations to him and the quality of wrestler that he puts out and the quality kid that he gets to come to Pitt. It’s a good job always by him.”