While other athletic programs at Pitt-Johnstown have to make a quick adjustment to a new conference, the wrestling program at the school has pretty much held an honorary spot in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) for some time.
According to coach Pat Pecora, the conference’s ruggedness is something that the program is familiar with at a number of levels.
“Not too much changes,” Pecora said. “We’ve been wrestling (with) the PSAC for a long time. Our whole region is the Pennsylvania conference. We’ve been wrestling in the Pennsylvania conference, so to speak. Our dual-meet schedule is the same as last year because we wrestled all of the teams that are in the conference that are Division II. That basically remains the same.”
Being firmly entrenched in rivalries with key members of the conference already helps the transition along as well.
“Last year in the Division II conference in Pennsylvania, we were 7-0,” Pecora said. “We’ll try to do that again. Whether we will or not, I don’t know. We would have won the Pennsylvania dual-meet conference last year if we were in the conference, but this is another year and it’s another dual-meet season and we’re hoping to be in that situation again. That’s why all of our conference matches will be important.”
The Mountain Cats, winners of 14 straight dual meets to close last year, host Findlay tonight to open the dual-meet portion of their schedule. Pitt-Johnstown had already competed in the Clarion Open on Nov. 3.
Travis McKillop (184 pounds) leads a trio of all-Americans on the Pitt-Johnstown roster. McKillop took third in last year’s national tournament and is currently ranked second in the nation. Dave Cawley (141/149) is sixth in the nation while Dave Fogle (125/133) is ranked seventh.
Pitt-Johnstown also returns national qualifiers Evan Link (125/133), Gary Lantz (165) and Josh Duplin (285).
A release from the school also notes that Pitt-Johnstown has eight wrestlers ranked regionally in Super Region I. Cawley and McKillop are both ranked first in their respective weight classes with Fogle ranked second. Lantz and Duplin each sit at third with Link and Nikos Garafola (174) rated fifth and Zak Newton (197) ranked sixth.
The Mountain Cats are no strangers to the expectations foisted on them by Pecora, who has built the program into recognizable name in Division II grappling.
“We’re hoping and working toward a standard Pitt-Johnstown season,” Pecora said. “That means a good dual-meet season, to have as many guys as you can go to nationals and come away with a national champ and some All-Americans.”