Pat Santoro is entering his 11th season as the Lehigh head wrestling coach. Santoro, a Bethlehem native, has a strong relationship with his players that is exhibited in his coaching style. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Wrestling coach Santoro cemented as local legend


Described by his team as a “master of all,” wrestling coach Pat Santoro is no stranger to the Lehigh family.

Santoro grew up in Bethlehem and attended Bethlehem Catholic High School. His father and brother both wrestled for Lehigh, and he found himself at Lehigh on two different occasions.

“I came to Lehigh to train to make the Olympic team and I had fallen into the assistant coaching position,” Santoro said. “It wasn’t planned that way, but a couple coaches left, so I fell into that position.”

Santoro used his experience with the Mountain Hawks to land the head coaching job at the University of Maryland. He believed the job would be his last. However, Santoro’s Eastern Pennsylvania roots called him home when the head coaching job opened at Lehigh.

He did not miss a step in his return to Grace Hall, as the Mountain Hawks went 23-1 in his inaugural 2008-2009 season.

“It’s really unique to have somebody who knows the area and understand the culture that we live in,” said junior wrestler Joe Lobeck.

Santoro said it is especially redeeming to see his athletes reach their own goals. The former Olympic wrestler said his favorite memories come from trips with his team.

“More than anything else, the time here with each other is what is the most important and I think that’s what these guys are going to remember,” Santoro said.

Lobeck and junior wrestler Dylan Ammerman both feel as though Santoro’s guidance extends beyond the mat. Lobeck said Santoro’s presence in his life at Lehigh makes him feel as though he has another parent supporting him while at school.

“He just always says you got to keep doing the next right thing and he leads by example,” Ammerman said. “He always does the next right thing.”

Santoro also believes in the familial relationship he and his wrestlers share, as it helps him to be a better coach. He said he tries to listen to them and coach them individually, as well as get to know them beyond wrestling.

“There is a lot that goes on in coaching and I think wrestling is one of the smallest pieces,” Santoro said. “A lot of things go on… in academic lives or social lives. It’s really important to me to make sure those things are in order first because when those things are in order it’s a little easier for the wrestling to come into order.”

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