Josh Patrick always wanted to wrestle for Penn State.
That isn’t going to happen, but it looks like the Ligonier Valley senior might get the next-best thing: Competing against the Nittany Lions every year.
Patrick announced his decision to wrestle for Rutgers on Monday night. The New Jersey school is expected to announce that it will join Penn State in the Big Ten Conference.
“I went to Penn State matches and I always dreamed of going to Penn State,” said Patrick, who has placed fourth and fifth in the PIAA Class AA tournament the past two seasons. “Rutgers is like the Penn State of New Jersey.”
The State University of New Jersey soon will look to compete with the NCAA’s best wrestling teams. Penn State has won back-to-back national titles while Big Ten teams have captured the past six team championships. Last season, Big Ten wrestlers won seven of the 10 individual titles in St. Louis.
Patrick said that the move from the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, where the Scarlet Knights currently compete, to the Big Ten will accelerate the program’s rise. Rutgers is ranked 29th nationally by Intermat while the Big Ten holds down four of the top five spots, with Penn State at No. 1.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity,” Patrick said. “There are going to be some good teams there. They’re trying to build a good team and you only build a good team by wrestling better competition.”
Brian Matson, who is in his first year as Ligonier Valley’s head coach after spending the previous two years as an assistant, thinks the move to the Big Ten will benefit Patrick.
“I think that will be a good situation for him,” Matson said. “He’s always going to push himself to improve. He’s going to do what he needs to do to step up to that level of competition.”
Patrick, who is 83-18 during his high school career, pushes himself in the classroom as well. He has a 3.87 grade-point average and drew interest from some of the top schools in the country, such as Stanford, Duke and Lehigh. He plans to major in civil engineering at Rutgers.
“They’re a really good school and being that they’re right between Philadelphia and New York City, it’s good for job placement,” he said.
Patrick plans to wrestle 125 pounds for Rutgers, which he said began recruiting him after he won the National High School Coaches’ Association championship last year. That gave Scarlet Knights coach Scott Goodale a head start on Patrick’s other suitors.
Since then, Patrick has made five visits to Piscataway, N.J.
“I really liked it a lot,” he said. “The coaching staff was really great. It’s everything I dreamed of in going to college. They were perfect, exactly what I was looking for. It made the decision easy.”
The fact that Patrick could start as a true freshman didn’t hurt either.
“They told me I have a good chance of starting,” he said. “I want to start. I’m that type of guy. I don’t want to sit out unless I have to.”
Patrick joins a Rutgers class that includes three of Intermat’s top 100 college recruits.
With his college commitment out of the way, Patrick can concentrate on his senior season.