ShareThis Page

Wilpses are first family of Pitt wrestling

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

Matt Wilps pauses long enough that you wonder whether the phone call disconnected.

Asked what makes his family unique, he struggles to find the words.

“Not sure,” Wilps said.

Maybe he's tongue-tied because there are so many options to consider.

Wilps thinks there's nothing different about his family. He would be wrong.

The Wilpses are Pitt's first family of wrestling. They're talented, loyal and hardly conventional.

Jeff Wilps wrestled at Pitt from 1979-82, and he was followed by his oldest son, Matt. Then his middle son, Tyler.

Soon it will be his youngest son, Noah, a senior at Chartiers Valley and a Pitt recruit.

“My plan was always to help my kids get a scholarship to college so I didn't have to pay for it,” the eldest Wilps joked. “I knew how to wrestle, so I thought I would get them into wrestling.”


The Wilps boys, along with sister Claire, the youngest of the siblings, grew up in Collier in a house that didn't have cable TV.

“Having it on in the room, it takes your attention away,” said Matt, now an assistant coach at Pitt. “It definitely kills brain cells.”

Tyler never was enamored with sports, at least not the kind he watched. In four years, the redshirt junior can count on one hand the number of Pitt football games he has attended.

“I don't think we were raised to idolize any one particular thing,” said Tyler, a finance major with a minor in chemistry. “It was more like, ‘If you want it, go get it yourself.' ”

Which he will this week at the NCAA Division I Championships in Oklahoma City. Fresh off an ACC title, Tyler (28-5) is seeded No. 8 in the 174-pound weight class. He opens with Bradley Wukie of Pennsylvania in the first round Thursday morning.


Jeff Wilps owns the family's house in Collier. He also owns a second one — that Tyler lives in — on Iowa Street in Oakland.

“Now that I have two kids (at Pitt) … and three with Noah going, it seemed logical,” Jeff said. “Instead of having to pay for room and board, we have them stay there.

“I guess my daughter now is forced to go to Pitt. She has no choice now. I just have to figure out what I can get her a scholarship in.”


In the basement of the Wilps' Collier home sits a bench and squat rack the family bought from Chartiers Valley. There also is a wrestling mat.

“If anything got out of hand,” Matt said, “we'd go downstairs and settle it on the mat.”

Matt remembers activities he and his brothers used to do, at Jeff's behest, when they were younger. Many of them involved yard work.

About a decade ago, the boys set out to gather as many boulders as possible to build a gigantic rock well. And, mostly, to see who could find the biggest, best one.

“We have a real nice setup, stairs going up about 15 feet,” Matt said. “We found a couple diamonds in the rough.”


Tyler's favorite match of his career isn't when he almost upset defending national champion Chris Perry of Oklahoma State in January.

It was a match at the Southern Scuffle. He fell behind Scott Reilly of Air Force, 5-0, but rallied to score a 17-9 major decision.

“I actually got kind of excited,” Tyler said. “I knew I would have to open up, and it would be a fun challenge.”

That attitude might explain his starting to play guitar out of nowhere about a year ago, then learning Eagles and Neil Young songs, to which his brothers and dad sing along.

Tyler enjoys a challenge, something that makes him think.

“It's hard for me to pinpoint what I like sometimes,” he said. “I think what I like most is the process of getting good at something. I've never had a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, I really love this activity.'

“Wrestling is a process. To get better at wrestling, I had to trust that process.”


Noah insisted he was free to wrestle wherever he wanted. Still, with a family that has become synonymous with Pitt wrestling and practically considers former coach Rande Stottlemyer an uncle, why go elsewhere?

“You want to hold on to your family's history,” Noah said. “I know that's something I would like to do.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @mackey_trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.