photo courtesy of UPJ athletics
The longest tenured coach in NCAA Division II, and after this past season the winningest in all of intercollegiate wrestling, Pat Pecora just closed out his 44th year leading the Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cats. Pecora won his 617th dual Feb. 7 to become the winningest wrestling coach at the college level, including NCAA Divisions I, II, III, NAIA and junior college programs. Also the UPJ director of athletics, Pecora led the Mountain Cats to the program’s 23rd Regional title in 2020, with eight UPJ wrestlers qualifying for the 2020 NCAA Division II National Championships.
“There are two sides to our program,” Pecora said. “One is the family. We try to build our program like a family. I am most proud of how our guys go on to be good fathers and coaches. Our motto has always been ‘brothers for life.’ If our guys can feel like brothers, then I’ve done my job. Second is the program’s performance side of it. Consistency is what we work for. We have had an All-American every year since 1979. I am proud of that consistency. Anyone can be good for one day, one week, one month, one year, but our program has stood the test of time.”
That consistency is certainly apparent in the Pitt-Johnstown program. In 38 years in NCAA Division II, the Mountain Cats have sent 231 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, with 160 coming back as All-Americans. Twenty-two of those have stood atop the podium in their respective weight classes, including three from Carlton Haselrig at heavyweight from 1986-89, with the UPJ big man also winning three NCAA Division I titles in those years. Chris Eddins is the latest UPJ title winner, with the senior heading into the 2020 NCAA National Championships a two-time defending National Champion.
Five starters return for Pecora’s Super Region 1 champion squad in 2020-21, with three of those returning as National Qualifiers. One of those qualifiers is Brock Biddle, who placed fourth at 174 in 2019 and was an NWCA All-American last season. Jacob Ealy (141) and Allan Beattie (285) also return for 2020-21 having qualified for the NCAA meet. In all, the Mountain Cats will look to field a squad of 40 for next season.