Share This Page

Longtime assistant Peters assumes control for Pitt wrestling team

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt wrestling head coach Jason Peters watches practice Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 at the Fitzgerald Field House.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt wrestling coach Jason Peters watches practice Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at Fitzgerald Field House.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt wrestling head coach Jason Peters watches practice Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 at the Fitzgerald Field House.

Two of the biggest challenges facing the Pitt wrestling team entering this season were joining the ACC and doing so without longtime coach Rande Stottlemyer, who retired in April after 34 years at the helm.

But because of Stottlemyer's successor, longtime assistant Jason Peters, the Panthers are confident the move to the ACC will be a smooth one.

Peters, 40, has been careful not to change much from a program that, under Stottlemyer, produced 304 wins, six Eastern Wrestling League titles, 56 EWL individual champions, 33 All-Americans and three national champions.

“It was like no transition at all,” said junior Tyler Wilps, a 174-pounder from Chartiers Valley. “We're doing the same things.”

Which means having picnics at wrestlers' houses and coaches' kids at practice, a true family atmosphere.

Peters maintains a strong friendship with Stottlemyer, who keeps tabs on his former team. During his first practice back, Pitt's wrestlers and coaches gave Stottlemyer a standing ovation.

Stottlemyer wrestled at Pitt from 1974-78, earning All-American status three times. He spent one year as an assistant before taking over as coach.

To Peters, iconic figures such as Stottlemyer — coaches who don't hop schools in search of bigger contracts — are almost mythical characters.

“Him retiring and me coming in has been a huge eye-opener for me,” Peters said. “Someone gives their life to a program like this. … I don't know that there's many of these guys left that spend 30 years at one school.”

Peters admits he doesn't think he has a 30-year run at Pitt in him, yet working with Stottlemyer for a decade left an impression.

“Sometimes, as young coaches, we get caught up so much in ourselves that we don't take time to appreciate what those guys have done,” Peters said. “I was fortunate enough to see it.”

Peters graduated from East Stroudsburg in 1998 and a few months later became an assistant at Princeton.

After three years there and one more at Harvard, Peters accepted the job at Pitt — while his wife, Stacy, still was working in Boston.

Stacy moved to Pittsburgh about a year later, and the couple married. They bought a house eight years ago in Mt. Lebanon and have two sons. Never once did Peters consider leaving.

“It wasn't just about being a head coach for me.” Peters said. “I wanted an opportunity to win and be successful and be around good people.

“I love Pittsburgh. I wasn't willing to move all over the place chasing a job.”

Film study, recruiting and running the day-to-day aspect of practice were three of Peters' duties as an assistant, responsibilities he misses having in what has become more of a CEO role as coach.

“I would rather just coach wrestling, to be honest,” Peters said. “But unfortunately, that's not the way it is. It's become more businesslike. It's not just teaching practice at 3 o'clock.”

Two former wrestlers, Matt Kocher and Matt Wilps, help run practice, while Peters keeps an eye on things from his office in the basement of Fitzgerald Field House, complete with two flat-screen TVs mounted on the wall for film study — a favorite practice of Pitt's new coach.

“A lot of guys don't want to see themselves fail,” Peters said. “It's hard to watch and swallow the fact that you're not doing what you think you're doing. But it gives us teaching points.”

Pitt returns plenty of talent from a team that won a third consecutive EWL title, including individual champions Nick Bonaccorsi (Bethel Park) at 174 pounds and Max Thomusseit at 184.

Thomusseit and 285-pounder P.J. Tasser (Belle Vernon) won titles at the Clarion Open the first weekend of November. Pitt wrestles at Maryland on Dec. 6 and in the ACC Championships on March 8, 2014, at Virginia Tech.

“This is my fifth year, and every year you say this is the best year we've had,” Tasser said. “But it really feels like this is going to be the best year that we will have.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.