Thirty-three years at the helm of one of the most history-rich wrestling programs in the East is no small accomplishment. Pitt's head wrestling coach, Rande Stottlemyer, has done it the old-fashioned way: through dedication and commitment to one's principles and beliefs and a good day of hard work.
Stottlemyer has seen rewards of that hard work the past few seasons as Pitt has captured three straight Eastern Wrestling League regular season titles and back-to-back EWL Tournament titles. Following a perfect 6-0 record in the conference in 2012, the Panthers have won 18 straight matches against EWL opponents.
The 2012 season may have been the most successful of Stottlemyer's career, culminating with the team's first top-10 finish in the Coaches Poll since 1963. Following the team's win in the EWL Tournament with four individual champions, he was named the conference's Coach of the Year for the fifth time.
Overall, the Panthers had six wrestlers qualify for the 2012 NCAA Champonships. Junior Matt Wilps finished fourth at 197 and senior Tyler Nauman wrapped up his career with a fifth-place finish at 149 for the second All-American honor of his career. In all, Stottlemyer has coached at least one All-American in 21 of the past 28 seasons.
Just two seasons ago, Stottlemyer was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame by the Pennsylvania Chapter as he earned the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award. In addition, he was also inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He is just five wins away from 300, carrying a 295-224-12 career mark.
Along with his assistant coaches, Stottlemyer has continued a winning tradition that he was a part of prior to his coaching days.
In 2009, Stottlemyer added to his extensive list of All-Americans as senior Zach Shaeffer became just the fourth heavyweight in Pitt history to earn All-America honors. Against Cleveland State, Stottlemyer picked up the 250th win of his career. In 2008, Stottlemyer and his staff guided six wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. A year after helping coach 174-pounder Keith Gavin to a runner-up finish, Gavin reached the summit, becoming a national champion after a 4-2 win over Michigan's Steve Luke. Gavin's national title marked the first for Pitt since Pat Santoro won his second of back-to-back titles in 1989.
In 2006, for the second consecutive season, the Pitt coaching staff guided six wrestlers to the NCAA championships. Stottlemyer and his assistants additionally led their fourth wrestler in three years to a EWL title when Justin Nestor won at 165 pounds. In 2005, they coached yet another NCAA All-American in Drew Headlee, the 18th wrestler to achieve this career milestone under Stottlemyer's tenure. In addition, Sheaffer became the EWL Champion at 285 pounds in his first season as a Panther. Four years ago, Carl Fronhofer, went from being unseeded to an NCAA finalist and an All-American at 174 pounds.
Stottlemyer still enjoys what he does and gets just as much of a thrill in seeing his team succeed as he did in taking the job back in 1979. His excitement and enthusiasm for a sport he has been a part of for over 30 years is contagious as he talks about his coaching duties with the Panthers.
During his tenure, Stottlemyer and his staff have produced a two-time national champion in Pat Santoro, one-time national champion in Keith Gavin, 22 NCAA All-Americans, 149 national qualifiers and 40 Eastern Wrestling League Champions. Pitt has finished in the nation's top-25 in nine of the last 15 seasons.
Eight of his athletes have been honored as recipients of either the Blue-Gold or Panther Awards, student-athletes whose names are permanently etched in the stone on the sidewalk leading between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel. His most recent addition to that special list was Gavin, who earned the Panther Award in 2008.
In addition, two of Stottlemyer's former wrestlers, Greg Zimmerman and John Withrow, were the recipients of the prestigious Omicron Delta Kappa Award, presented annually to the outstanding senior student at Pitt. Numerous Pitt wrestlers have been named to the Eastern Wrestling League's Academic Honor Roll and in 2006 the wrestling team captured Pitt's Men's Scholar-Athlete Academic Cup, which is awarded annually to the athletic team with the highest GPA. Current redshirt junior Ethan Headlee was named to the NWCA's True Freshman All-Academic team two years ago, one of just five freshmen in the country to be honored.
Stottlemyer's strong ties and success in the sport of wrestling date back to his high school career at Hickory High School in nearby Hermitage, Pa., where he was a PIAA state runner-up and two-time Junior National Freestyle wrestling champion.
Following a stellar scholastic career at Hickory, Stottlemyer enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became a three-time NCAA All-American, achieving that level of distinction only one year before becoming a full-time assistant coach to then Panther wrestling coach Dave Adams. As a collegian, Stottlemyer put together a record of 68-16-2, won one EWL title and served as team captain for each of his varsity seasons.
As a coach, Stottlemyer stresses the importance of keeping one's priorities straight.
Those words tell more about Stottlemyer than any others. His work ethic is unquestionable as is his desire to keep Pitt among the elite wrestling programs in the country.