Pat Santoro became the coach of the Lehigh wrestling team back in 2009. Prior to coming to coach at Lehigh, the team hadn’t been performing to the best of its ability and was in need of a strong rebuilding effort. In 2007 and 2008, they ranked just 38th and 41st in the NCAA.
After two difficult seasons, Santoro was asked to become Lehigh’s wrestling coach, and he accepted.
“Lehigh has a very strong wrestling program,” Santoro said. “They needed some support, and having grown up in Lehigh Valley, I was a natural fit.”
Once Santoro became the coach, Lehigh’s record began to improve. They went from No. 41 in 2008 to No. 28 in 2009, all the way to No. 8 in 2011 and 2012.
In his first year coaching at Lehigh, Santoro was named the EIWA Coach of the Year. He has had this accolade twice out of his six completed seasons here at Lehigh, once in 2009 and another time in 2012.
He has helped 10 team members win a total of 11 EIWA titles and has led 12 total All-American medals. Santoro enters the 2014-15 season with a dual meet record of 86-28-1 at Lehigh.
Santoro doesn’t stop there. He remains focused on continuously improving and strengthening the team’s game.
“Working here for the past 6 years has been great,” Santoro said. “We’re still hoping to improve. We’d like to get back to the top 5 in the country. We’ve come close but it’s still something we’re working towards.”
Lehigh’s wrestling team has had a successful season so far. Its record is 12-4 at the conclusion of the regular season. As of now, they rank 11th in the NCAA and rank No. 2 in the EIWA. This success is attributed to Santoro and the strong team he leads.
Santoro focuses on evaluating the team’s successful techniques and tactics. Each year he tweaks these techniques a bit to stay competitive at the highest level.
“At the end of the day, the number one thing is gaining new techniques and it starts with a strong foundation,” Santoro said. “If you don’t have that foundation down you won’t be able to pick up new techniques.”
The team thinks very highly of Santoro not only for his strong coaching abilities, but for his personality, as well.
“He is a good-hearted person, and he really cares for us on and off the mat,” sophomore Darian Cruz said. “He knows how to peak us at the right time so that when postseason comes around, we are at our best.”
Santoro stresses the importance of recruiting a wrestler with great skill and an even better character.
“I look out to recruit good wrestlers and good character people,” Santoro said. “When I look for new recruits, the most important thing is having good character. It’s important for guys to have the discipline within themselves to work out twice a day and take responsibility for their successes.”
The team is also inspired by Santoro’s dedication and fight.
“Coach Pat is as fierce of a competitor as they come,” junior Nate Brown said. “He drives us to compete hard and fight for each other.”
The team’s aggressive attitude and need to fight for each other is a major reason for its success.
“The strategies have been to keep it simple, control your fight and keeping putting yourself in the best opportunity to succeed,” Brown said.
Throughout the season, the team members have tried to maintain focus on their big end goal: doing well at nationals. As part of this goal, Cruz mentioned how the coaching staff sets up an especially difficult schedule to use as preparation.
Santoro also places a huge emphasis on controlling the mental part of the game, according to Brown.
The team has confidence in its ability to dominate the division this year.
“We have the potential of being one of the best teams Lehigh has seen, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Cruz said. “For us to be the best, we all need to have this goal in mind and keep working towards it.”
Santoro is confident in his players’ abilities to win national titles and All-Americans.
“Every weight class there’s a hand full of guys who can win a national title and a few who can be All-Americans,” he said. “There are opportunities to make things happen. This team has a lot of potential but potential is just potential until you go out and earn it.”