UPDATED Santoro to coach at Lehigh Strobel takes administrative position at LehighLehigh University held a press conference this afternoon to announce that Pat Santoro, the current head wrestling coach at the Univ. of Maryland, would become the new head coach at Lehigh.
Greg Strobel, Lehigh's head coach, will assume a new administrative position with the athletic department which includes summer camp and athletic fundraising duties.
Both Santoro and Strobel were on the teleconference for the announcement.
"It is an emotional day," said Santoro. "I am excited to return to the Lehigh Valley. I have a lot of roots here. I coached here. My father wrestled here. My brother wrestled here. There is a talented young team here and it will be a lot of fun."
Santoro, who recently signed a contract extention at Maryland, indicated that he had a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave if he was offered the Lehigh coaching job.
"It sounds like my decision was the easiest to make," said Strobel. "We have talked about this for a number of years. I have done this coaching thing for 31 years. I felt it was a good time. But I was concerned about the program. We talked about Pat as the target guy to go after for the job and we did that."
Santoro served as an assistant coach at Lehigh for nine years, working with Strobel for eight of them, before he accepted the position at Maryland.
Strobel has been active with USA Wrestling for many years, first as an employee as its National Teams Director for eight years, then as a coach for the U.S. Olympic Team and a volunteer leader on its Board of Directors.
Santoro expects to be more active with the Olympic movement in his new position.
"I would like to be more involved. I had planned on doing it at Maryland but we had so much to do there. The Lehigh Valley Athletic Club has a strong club. I want to get involved as much as I can with the Olympic movement. I want athletes to know that if they want to become World and Olympic champions that they can do it here."
Santoro indicated that the decision was very difficult for him, and praised the University of Maryland, including its athletic director Debbie Yow, for all they had done for him.
"It was the most difficult thing I had to do professionally," said Santoro. "It was an emotional thing."
A statement was issued by Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, sent to their alumni list, concerning the decision by Santoro to accept the new position.
"It is with mixed emotions that we notify you all of Coach Pat Santoro's resignation from the Terrapin family to become the head wrestling coach at Lehigh University. Obviously, we are saddened to see the current ACC Coach of the Year leave the University of Maryland in the midst of his rebuilding of our wrestling program back to national prominence. However, we are also excited to wish Pat, along with his wife Julie and daughter Leah, the best in his return home to his native Lehigh Valley. Please join us in wishing Pat success in his new position and extending our sincere appreciation for returning our wrestling program back into the national rankings and the top of the ACC…where we belong," wrote Yow.
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FROM LEHIGH UNIVERSITY
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh University has named Pat Santoro its new Lawrence E. White '64 Head Coach of Wrestling, Goodman Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett '76 announced Tuesday. Santoro, who becomes just the eighth head coach in the 99-year history of Lehigh wrestling, replaces Greg Strobel who will be making the transition into an administrative leadership role within the Lehigh Athletics Department. This announcement marks the return to Lehigh for Santoro, a Bethlehem native who spent nine seasons at Lehigh as an assistant coach.
"Greg Strobel was ready for a new assignment outside of coaching and he is very well skilled and suited for working with our camps program and in our athletics alumni relations and fund raising areas," said Sterrett. "Pat Santoro was an outstanding assistant coach at Lehigh for nine years, and has done a magnificent job in developing the Maryland program. He will bring a deep affection for the institution, the educational values we prioritize, and the ability to make the transition seamless."
Santoro returns to Lehigh after spending the last five years as the head coach at the University of Maryland where he helped resurrect the Terrapins program, which in 2008 captured its first ACC title in 35 years; a feat which earned Santoro ACC Coach of the Year honors. This past season the Terps went 16-4 and entered the national rankings for the first time since 1993, climbing as high as No. 21. Under Santoro's guidance, Maryland crowned its first All-American since 1997 en route to a top-25 team finish at the NCAA Championships. Santoro posted a 48-41-1 record in five seasons at College Park, including an impressive 33-9 dual mark the last two years.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be the new head coach at Lehigh University," said Santoro. "Lehigh is a program with a strong and rich tradition of wrestling, and terrific support from the alumni, fans and the community. Lehigh wrestling has been a part of my family for a long time. I grew up around the program and its great tradition, and I'm looking forward to coming back home and trying to continue the great history and tradition of Lehigh wrestling."
Prior to his stint at Maryland Santoro served as an assistant at Lehigh for nine years, including eight seasons as the top assistant on Greg Strobel's staff. During his initial tenure, Santoro was part of some of the most successful teams in school history. In 2003, Santoro was named the national Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, after helping guide the Brown and White to its fourth EIWA title in five years, and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, at the time the program's best finish in 24 years.
"I had a great experience in my first nine years at Lehigh, and Greg and I were together for eight of those years," explained Santoro. "We became very close, and Greg helped me tremendously throughout the years, especially in my first few years at Maryland when I was trying to build the program. I'm very fortunate to have worked along side him."
Strobel's transition into Lehigh's athletic administration comes as part of a more comprehensive re-organization of Lehigh's athletics leadership structure. In 13 seasons, Strobel amassed a career dual mark of 189-83-1 and led Lehigh to six EIWA championships including five consecutive titles from 2002-06. Strobel was named EIWA Coach of the Year four times, and was named National Coach of the Year by the NWCA after leading Lehigh to a third place finish at the 2004 NCAA Championships. His wrestlers captured 28 individual EIWA titles and totaled 30 All-America medals. Strobel coached two national champions, Rob Rohn in 2002 and Troy Letters in 2004.
One of the most respected figures in American wrestling, Strobel also served as the U.S. Olympic head coach in 2000, and worked closely with a number of U.S. national freestyle teams. In his new role, Strobel will oversee Lehigh's highly-successful summer camp program, while also taking on additional responsibilities in athletics fund raising and sport supervision.
"I'm really excited," said Strobel. "It's a win-win for both me and Lehigh wrestling. I've wanted to move into administration for a while, and it just happened that the position I wanted opened up. It really is the perfect assignment for me, dealing with camps, and alumni and fund raising and I'm ready to move on."
Strobel then offered his thoughts on his successor, "I'm excited for Pat as well. He was an integral part of our program for my first eight years and for him to come back will be a tremendous thing for the program. We have a great group of student-athletes returning, and I think they will enjoy having Pat as their head coach. His coaching style is very similar to mine, so there should be a pretty seamless transition."
After wrestling for Bethlehem Catholic High School and taking a post graduate year at Blair Academy, Santoro wrestled collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became the Panthers' only four-time All-America while capturing national titles in 1988 and 1989 at 142 pounds. Santoro graduated from Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1992 and went on to enjoy a successful international career, becoming a four-time member of the U.S. National Team and serving as an alternate for the 1996 Olympic Team and the 1999 World Team.
Santoro and his wife Julie have a daughter, Leah.