Mat men carry on with a UPJ imprint

Olivia Hutchinson, Sports Editor

Although their time on the UPJ wrestling mat is over, wrestling alumni said they’re able to take what they learned from Coach Pat Pecora and apply it to their jobs after graduation.

2010 graduate Patrick Walsh earned a history degree and said wrestling at UPJ helped him pursue a job in coaching.

“When I graduated, I went right into coaching at Manchester College (North Manchester, Ind.), and I loved it,” said Walsh. “Pecora had a major influence on me.

“I’ve always wanted to be a coach, but he showed me the type of coach I should be, the one that helps young men find their path and become good men in society.”

Shane Valko, 2010 graduate and previous national title winner, who now works as a sales representative for Topical Pain Medicine, said using the things he learned during his time at UPJ has helped mold his character.

“After I won my national title, I was bombarded with calls and e-mails to be a grad assistant coach all over the country,” said Valko.

“I sat down with Coach Pecora and we decided the best thing for me would be to stay here and coach under him and find a job that is within my major.

Valko, an assistant coach for the wrestling team, said his coaches at UPJ had a considerable influence after graduating.

“I was trained under two unbelievable coaches (Pat Pecora and Jody Strittmatter), said Valko. “They developed me into a strong positive young man, not only on the wrestling mat but in the real world.

“They taught me that, just because I am a wrestler, things won’t be handed to you. You have to work at everything and then you will be the best wrestler, son, brother, uncle and role model.”

Valko said he hopes to make the USA Olympic world team.

“I am currently in mixed martial arts. I actually have a title fight this Saturday, Feb. 25, in Altoona. I am still trying to make the USA world team. With my age, this is probably my last year to make a run at it.”

Walsh said after graduating, he missed wrestling.

“After I was done with wrestling I had a big gap missing in my life. I had wrestled since I was 5, and now I was done so I turned to mixed martial arts and jiu jitsu to help fill that hole,” said Walsh.

“It’s hard to go from the workouts and competition we do and just switch it off,” said Walsh.

“So I have been dabbling in mixed martial arts and I had a fight last summer, which I won, and have another in June.”

Walsh, who works at Bank of New York in Pittsburgh, said the UPJ wrestling program helped his success in mixed martial arts.

“Wrestling for UPJ helped me greatly with mixed martial arts, not many people can understand or appreciate our practices unless you do them,” said Walsh.

“Our program is known nationwide.

“When I went to train at the Olympic training center in Colorado the summer before my senior year, everyone recognized the UPJ program. It helped me get my coaching job.

“Coach Pecora has built a program from a tiny school, to being known nationally for the wrestlers he produces,” said Walsh.