Jason Peters should feel right at home during the “Night with the Panthers” hosted by the Johnstown Panther Club Chapter tonight at Sunnehanna Country Club.
The new University of Pittsburgh head wrestling coach knows Johnstown and the surrounding region is a hotbed of scholastic wrestling.
Peters also is quite aware of the tradition at Pitt-Johnstown, where the Panthers’ branch campus’ wrestling program has thrived for decades under coach Pat Pecora.
“There are a lot of good wrestlers out there,” Peters said of the Cambria-Somerset region. “It’s a good place for wrestling. They support wrestling at the youth level. UPJ has a great program. A lot of times those kids out there like to stay out there (at UPJ). I think overall that’s good for Pitt.”
Peters will be part of a group of Pitt coaches and broadcast personalities who will participate in tonight’s 6 p.m. event at Sunnehanna.
The highest profile coach on the dais is second-year Panthers football coach Paul Chryst. Assistant men’s basketball coach Pat Sandle and head women’s soccer coach Greg Miller also will attend, as well as Pitt football color analyst Pat Bostick, a former Panthers quarterback.
Pitt named Peters as its 10th wrestling coach earlier this month. He replaced veteran head coach Rande Stottlemyer, who retired. Peters spent 10 seasons at Pitt, including nine as Stottlemyer’s top assistant.
“In Rande’s opinion, as well as mine, we could not make a better choice than to elevate Jason Peters to the role of head wrestling coach at Pitt,” Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson said when the move was announced.
“We are all committed to helping Jason succeed and we are excited to watch his tenure as the leader of this program.”
Peters has helped the Panthers wrestling program win six Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championships over the past four seasons – three regular season titles and three tournament championships.
“You always want to keep winning championships,” Peters said during a Wednesday telephone interview. “There is a lot of work to do and a lot of challenges. We have good kids coming in and quality people returning. We have a good plan. The guys just work hard, log a lot of hours and hold each other accountable.”
Pitt will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Peters hopes to build on an impressive resume. Over the past 10 seasons, the program has produced 11 All-Americans, including multiple All-Americans the past two seasons. The Panthers have sent 64 wrestlers to the national tournament with Peters on the staff, including a national champion in Keith Gavin.
Pitt also had 105 dual wins in Peter’s 10 seasons as an assistant and had 33 individual EWL champions.
“It’s been a good experience,” Peters said. “Rande helped prepare me for the transition. The guys have been accepting. It’s a pretty good situation.”