John Smith and Pat Santoro honored as NWCA Coaches of the Year

By Pat Tocci | May 20, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
(Manheim, PA) The National Wrestling Coaches Association is proud to announce John Smith of Oklahoma State University as the NWCA Head Coach of the Year and Pat Santoro of Lehigh University as the NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year for the 2002-03 season. John Smith guided Oklahoma State through a perfect season in 2003 that was capped off with a NCAA Championship. The Cowboys concluded the regular season with a perfect 17-0 record, which included a title at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals. Oklahoma State went onto reclaim the Big 12 Championship with six individual champions. The Cowboys won their 31st NCAA Team title and first since 1994 with a school record 143 points. The Orange and Black had seven All-American including NCAA Champions Johnny Thompson and Jake Rosholt. The Cowboys also placed Shane Roller on the NWCA All-Academic first team. Smith was also the 1994 NWCA Coach of the Year. NWCA President Jack Maughan commented, "It is a privilege to bestow this honor to Coach Smith for the achievements his Oklahoma State Cowboys attained this season. The Cowboys success this season has been a direct result of the commitment and dedication that Coach Smith brings to his profession." Lehigh University Assistant Coach, Pat Santoro has been highly instrumental in the resurgence of the Mountain Hawk program. The Mountain Hawks completed their best season since 1979 with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships. Lehigh placed two wrestlers in the finals (Troy Letters and John Trenge) and had four All-Americans. The Brown and White finished the regular season ranked fourth in the nation with a 17-3 dual meet record. Highlighting the regular season was a title at the Virginia Duals. In addition, Lehigh won a second consecutive EIWA Championship with five champions. As the unofficial 'middleweight' coach for Lehigh, Santoro has directly trained with eight middleweight wrestlers in his nine years as assistant coach who have achieved All-American status--with five of them never winning a high school state title. Maughan commented on Santoro receiving this honor, "It is an honor to recognize Pat Santoro for his role in the success of the Lehigh wrestling program. Santoro has distinguished himself as a model for all assistant coaches to follow." Coaches who receive this award are ineligible for this honor for three years. Head Coaches ineligible to receive the award include Russ Hellickson of Ohio State University, J Robinson of Minnesota, and Bobby Douglas of Iowa State while ineligible assistant coaches include Chris Bono of Iowa State Jim Heffernan of Illinois, and Tom Brands of Iowa. The NWCA Coach of Year is voted upon by the NWCA Board of Directors. Coaches from all divisions are eligible to receive this honor. Smith and Santoro will be honored at the NWCA Convention in New York City on September 11 and at the 2004 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, MO.