first season as head coach of the Pitt wrestling team, Jason Peters led the
Panthers to an undefeated dual meet record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and
the outright regular season conference championship.
the Pitt wrestling team ranked No. 10 in the nation heading into the ACC
Tournament at Virginia Tech on Saturday, March 8, we sat down with Coach Peters
to discuss winning the ACC Dual Meet Championship and his hopes for the
Panthers in the postseason at the ACC and NCAA Championships.
Q: After setting the goal at the
beginning of the season to win an ACC Championship, how good did it feel to
achieve that after beating North Carolina last Saturday?
JP: Anytime you can win a
championship it's exciting. It was great to see our guys embrace the goal
throughout the season and put in the work necessary to achieve that goal. We
have great assistant coaches that helped us do it as well. We're still getting
ready for the conference tournament now, so we can't celebrate too soon. We've
got to stay focused on what we're trying to do every day at practice: get
better at wrestling. Hopefully we can carry that success into the postseason.
Q: How exciting was it to win a
championship in your first season as head coach?
JP: Yeah, it's pretty cool. I don't
know if it matters if it's in my first year or not - any time you win a
championship, it's exciting. Championships are championships. I enjoyed the
championships we won during my 10 years as an assistant coach here. It's
exciting and fun to win championships. It's been good to continue the winning
tradition of Pitt wrestling.
Q: And being the first team on
campus to bring back an ACC Championship to Pittsburgh, is that something you
take pride in as a program?
JP: That's definitely pretty neat.
We talked about it as a staff and team that no one will ever have the
opportunity to do this again. We won't have another first year in the ACC, so
we wanted to make the most of it. And we were fortunate enough to bring the
first ACC trophy back to Pittsburgh, which is pretty cool.
Q: Did it feel good to show the
other ACC programs that your team more than belonged in this traditionally
tough wrestling conference?
JP: Yeah, it felt great. I think
they knew we were coming to wrestle when we joined the conference. And we did a
good job of following through and winning a championship. Now we want another
one at the ACC Tournament.
Q: Now heading to that ACC
Tournament next weekend, does the points system that rewards pins, technical
falls and major decisions affect the way your guys wrestle?
JP: In the postseason, you can get
points for winning big, but you also get points for how well you place in your
weight class at the tournament. We have a few guys vying for top seeds and
competing for individual championships. The format may be different, but not
much changes with what we're trying to do. We're going to work really, really
hard to prepare to win as many bouts as we can. If we can do that and win the
close contests like we did in the dual meets, we can win another trophy at the ACC
Tournament and send seven or eight guys to the NCAA Championships.
Q: With five guys on the team who
won Eastern Wrestling League individual championships, how important is it to
have that kind of experience heading into the postseason?
JP: It's great to have guys who won
early in their careers and still have an opportunity to win more championships
towards the end of their careers. Anytime you have several guys who've had
success in Division I wrestling that can help mold and lead the underclassmen,
that can only help your program. We have guys who've won individual
championships that want to win more, but we also have guys like Edgar Bright
who want to win their first individual championship as a freshman. It's nice to
have that balance of experience and youth.
Q: Finally, in wrestling, these
guys work so hard for their entire careers for a chance to get on the podium as
an All-American at Nationals and to compete for a national championship. What
will you tell your guys that qualify for NCAAs before they go out onto the mat
for that opportunity of a lifetime?
JP: We want to finish strong and add
to the great history Pitt has built in wrestling. I believe the sky's the limit
for our team. The goal is to win. That's what I've told them from the first day
of practice, and that's what I'll tell them at NCAAs. That committed mindset of
winning that everyone has here - the coaches and wrestlers - gives us a good
chance at having success.
Last season, Pitt and Virginia Tech had a thrilling match right down to the end setting up a new rivalry in the ACC. Friday night at 7 p.m., Pitt hosts the Hokies yet again and this time it is for at least a share of the ACC Championship. Get ready for the showdown with highlights from last year's Pitt victory, as well as interviews with head coach Jason Peters and wrestlers Nick Bonaccorsi and Shelton Mack.
Pitt wrestling head coach Jason Peters pays tribute to former head coach Rande Stottlemyer. This video originally ran during Pitt's Homecoming game vs. Virginia at Heinz Field on September 28, 2013. Thanks, Rande from all of us with Pitt Athletics!