Jody Strittmatter was a very accomplished wrestler in his high school days at Cambria Heights and his college days at UPJ and later at Iowa.
He won a state title in 1996 and went 114-17 in high school. In two years at UPJ, he won two Division II national titles and compiled an 87-3 record.
After he transferred to Iowa, he won two Big Ten titles and was voted the Big Ten Outstanding Wrestler in 2000. He placed third at the NCAA Championships in 2000 and took second in 2001.
While his wrestling resume is long, his best contribution to the sport might be what he’s doing now in running Young Guns Wrestling Club in Ebensburg and being an assistant coach under Pat Pecora at UPJ.
Wrestlers throughout District 6 and District 5 come to the club to train. Eighteen of those wrestlers advanced to the Southwest Regional Tournament by placing in the top five of the District 6 Class AA Tournament. Eleven of those were in the finals, and five of them won titles.
“I have a blast watching these kids,” Strittmatter said. “These kids are working their butts off. I care about them and I care what they do. They’re getting extra workouts in, pushing right through and are trying to get better.
“It’s a huge commitment from their parents. It makes me happy that their hard work is paying off. I love wrestling. It’s a really unique sport. The more you put into it, the better you’re going to be.”
While the proof is in the number of regional qualifiers and finalists, Strittmatter deflects the credit back to the high school coaches.
“High school coaches do a good job,” he said. “In no way do I take credit for what kids do every day. Some coaches get upset because their kids are going to Young Guns, but I have a good relationship with most of them.”
Strittmatter is one of six people who are being inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame. The first ceremony was before the finals of the Class AA tournament Saturday. The next one will be before the Class AAA finals this Saturday.
Joining Strittmatter are Lewis Craig, who became Bald Eagle Area’s first state champ in 1968, Henry Green, who won gold for Huntingdon in 1972, three-time State College state champ Nathan Galloway, Paul Packer, who won a state title for BEA in 1972, and Lock Haven High School grad Paul Powell, who won a national title at Pitt in 1958.
Strittmatter and Packer were at the Altoona Fieldhouse before the Class AA finals and will again be there this weekend.
Last week, he watched as two Young Guns wrestlers, Central Cambria’s Phil Steinberg and Portage’s Shawn Perich, met in the 135-pound title bout. The bout was scoreless until Steinberg reversed with 30 seconds left and won, 2-0, to hand Perich his first loss.
“I told them that was a good match,” Strittmatter said. “Steinberg did a move we work on to get that reversal. You just wish them the best of luck. To me, it didn’t matter who won. I just wanted them to compete.”
Strittmatter knows how another one of his Young Guns wrestlers, Penn Cambria’s Ryan Link, feels after a loss. Link suffered his first loss when Forest Hills Tom McVicker countered a shot, put him on his back and pinned the Panther senior. McVicker was later voted the Outstanding Wrestler by the media.
“Link was really down,” Strittmatter said. “I go back to my junior year, when I lost to [2006 District 6 Hall of Fame inductee] Trap McCormack. I went out in Tyrone and ran for hours afterward, and I got lost.
“I hated losing. You have to deal with it. I told Link ‘It’s not a big deal. That’s got to fire you up.’ Losses make you work harder. Wrestling is a humbling sport.”
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.