Ryan Link’s college career is over, more than a year earlier than the Penn Cambria graduate or Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora expected it to be.
Link, a redshirt junior who is facing trial in Cambria County Court on a single misdemeanor gambling offense, has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA, Pecora said Friday.
Link did not take any bets on UPJ sporting events, with the bets placed apparently by a small circle of friends, both First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long and campus police Chief Kevin Grady said Friday.
The NCAA, which did not immediately return messages left by The Tribune-Democrat, looked into gambling allegations against Link earlier this year and made its ruling, Pecora said.
“They did an investigation,” Pecora said. “As soon as the people here found out about it they cooperated with the NCAA.”
Art McQuillan, Link’s defense attorney, agreed.
“An unfortunate situation was handled responsibly by the NCAA, UPJ, the athletic department and the Cambria County District Attorney’s office,” McQuillan said. “Sometimes, college students don’t always make the best decisions.”
Link was ranked third nationally in Division II at 133 pounds for much of the season and was No. 1 in the region heading into the Super Region I tournament on Feb. 24.
But Link, who was an All-American as a sophomore, did not wrestle in that tournament – which serves as a qualifier for the NCAA event – for what Pecora said at the time were “personal reasons.”
Link went 22-9 as a redshirt freshman and was 29-4 when he placed fourth nationally as a sophomore.
His record for this past season was
not listed on the UPJ website, but results there showed him with a 20-3 mark.
“It cost him his career,” Pecora said of the investigation. “Ryan took it like a man. He’s accepted that he made a bad decision and he is moving forward with his life. He’s a good student and he’s very successful. He might not be on our team, but he’ll always be a part of the family. He’ll always be a member of that.”
Pecora said Link really has been like a member of the family, especially since his older brother, Nathan, and younger brother, Evan, each were on the team this season.
“It rips my heart out, believe me. He’s a good kid, a good person,” Pecora said.
“It hurts, like a father. I feel horrible for Ryan, first. It hurts. And as a father, it hurts your family. But you know there is a young man who is a good young man with a great grade-point average. He’s never been in trouble.”
Pecora said that Link is completing his final semester at Pitt’s main campus and will graduate in August.
“He made a bad decision,” Pecora said. “That’s the tough thing about nowadays. It’s tough on young people. You can’t afford to make bad decisions.”