Pat Pecora

Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora leads a group of wrestlers onto the mat during the parade of All-Americans during the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA., Saturday, Mar.23, 2019.

Pat Pecora isn’t counting wins. At least not yet.

That much was evident on Wednesday, when the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown announced that Pecora notched his 600th career victory during a 33-6 win over the Long Island University Sharks on Saturday in the Rutgers University Duals in New Jersey. The milestone happened without pre- or post-match hype or hoopla by the university until a two-sentence email release four days later.

In his 44th season at Pitt-Johnstown, Pecora has the most dual-meet wins in NCAA Division II and is only 16 victories shy of the all-time mark in any division set by former Oregon State University coach Dale Thomas (616).

When asked about the significance of the milestone, Pecora cited 1970s-era Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler,” with the popular refrain, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”

The No. 1 hit song also advised the Gambler that “there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

“I’m still dealing. I don’t have time to sit around and count the numbers,” Pecora said, chuckling. 

“I’m still playing. I’m still dealing. There will be plenty of time for counting when I’m done. Right now I’m letting everyone else do the counting.”

Pecora’s career record is 600-149-8.

He has led the Mountain Cats to a pair of NCAA Division II team national championships in 1996 and 1999. 

Pecora guided Pitt-Johnstown to 22 NCAA regional crowns, including five in a row from 2003-07, and 10 straight from 1992-01.

His wrestlers have excelled on the mat and in the classroom.

He’s led 154 All-Americans and 14 individual national champions who have combined for 22 national titles. 

Pitt-Johnstown led in National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Academic Wrestling Team selections from 1997 through 2000, and since 1990, Pecora has coached more than 100 NWCA academic honorees.

That’s quite a resume for a coach who joined the Pitt-Johnstown athletic program in September 1976 and led the Mountain Cats to a 4-12 mark in his first season, which was the third year for the wrestling team.

The next season Pitt-Johnstown went 12-4 and has been winning ever since.

Pecora has had only two sub-.500 dual-meet seasons – his first year and in 1990-91 when the Mountain Cats were 7-9.

“It says a lot for the program and for all the young men who have been a part of those 600 wins,” Pecora said. “Every one of them, through the blood, sweat and tears they went through, each one of them is a part of the 600 and hopefully more.”

The odds are in the Mountain Cats’ favor. 

Under Pecora, Pitt-Johnstown has 39 seasons with at least 10 dual-meet wins. The program has had four 20-plus win seasons.

“What I’m most proud of in this program is the consistency,” Pecora said. “Anyone could be good for one day, one week or one year. I ask my wrestlers, ‘Can you do it consistently?’

“Since Barry Gresh became an All-American in 1979, we’ve had at least one All-American every single year. How many programs can say that? That’s 40 years.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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