By Pittsburgh Sports Information
PITTSBURGH – After a two-year stint as a volunteer assistant coach at Lehigh University, former University of Pittsburgh All-American wrestler Drew Headlee is returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach with the Panthers.
“I think it’s exciting to get Drew back. We talked about him coming back for a number of years and this seemed like the right opportunity to get him here,” said head coach Jason Peters.
Peters added that it should be a fairly smooth transition bringing Headlee, someone who has roots deep within the program, aboard on staff. Additionally, Peters contributed Headlee’s heritage as a major factor in his development. Headlee is the son of long-time coaching great Ron Headlee.
“Anytime you’ve been raised by a coach and you’ve been around coaching and athletics your whole life, you have a head start on trying to be a coach yourself,” said Peters. “Drew’s fortunate that he’s known since a young age that he wanted to be a coach. We’re excited to have him on board and start helping us out.”
Headlee, a 2008 graduate of Pitt, takes over a void left by another Pitt alum, Matt Wilps, who recently accepted a position with Hendricks Motor Sports.
Headlee spent the last two years working alongside former Pitt wrestler Pat Santoro, who was a two-time National Champion and four-year All-American. Working primarily with the lightweights, Headlee was responsible for developing a trio of All-Americans in Darian Cruz (125), Mason Beckman (133) and Mitch Minotti (149). Under Headlee’s guidance, Cruz became Lehigh’s first true freshman All-American in 34 years.
In addition to serving on the Mountain Hawks coaching staff, Headlee was also a member of the Lehigh Valley Athletic Club, both coaching and competing on a national and international level.
Headlee couldn’t be any happier to be back at his alma mater though.
“Growing up just about 45 minutes from here, I’m really glad to be home, back close to family, friends. Most of all the University of Pittsburgh – they were great to me while I was here and I can’t wait to work for them,” said Headlee.
Prior to arriving at Lehigh, Headlee spent the past four years training and competing around the world. Headlee trained at the North Carolina Regional Training Center in Chapel Hill from 2010-12 and before that worked at West Virginia’s Regional Training Center.
His competitions have taken him to at least eight countries, including Russia, Belarus and Cuba.
Some of Headlee’s top finishes over the past years since departing Pitt include a silver medal at the 2013 Pan American Games and placing at the US Open Nationals in five of the last six years. From 2008-11, he was in the top-seven each year at the US Open, highlighted by fifth-place finishes in 2010 and 2011.
Headlee’s most notable achievement, however, may be winning the final Olympic Trials Qualifying Tournament in 2012 with a 4-0 mark while racking up wins against three former All-Americans. The Western, Pa. native also has third-place finishes to his name at the 2010 Sunkis and 2011 Cerro Pelado International events and a runner-up finish at the 2009 NYAC International.
At Pitt, Headlee was a four- year letterwinner and three-year captain under Peters’ predecessor, Rande Stottlemyer. A three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time Eastern Wrestling League champion, Headlee garnered All-American status as a sophomore in 2005 at 133. He narrowly missed another All-American award, falling in the round of 12 three years later as a senior.
Throughout his college career, Headlee won numerous events, including the Mat Town Invitational at 125 (2004), the 2006 Body Bar Invitational at Cornell at 133 and was also a University National Freestyle Champion.
“The experience here (at Pitt) was great. They’re putting a lot of things here together with some of the new fields and everything that Pitt has done,” said Headlee. “We had a new wrestling room built just while I was in school. They’re passionate about their sports programs and that’s the same thing that I feel – just passionate about this school.”
Headlee earned a bachelor of science in architectural studies from Pittsburgh in 2008.
A standout wrestler in high school before arriving at Pitt, Headlee lettered all four years at nearby Waynesburg Central High School. Headlee finished with a career record of 137-28 and was a three-time WPIAL Champion and three-time Pennsylvania state qualifier, capturing a AAA state title in 2002.