April 16, 2008
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland head wrestling coach Pat Santoro has accepted the head coaching position at Lehigh University. Santoro was the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Terrapins to their first conference title since 1973. He posted a 48-41-1 record in five seasons at Maryland, including a 33-9 mark the last two years.
"I want to thank Dr. Yow and the University of Maryland for giving me my first opportunity to be a head coach, outstanding support during my five seasons at Maryland, and extreme understanding during this process," Santoro said. "Debbie has made the University of Maryland one of the most attractive wrestling coaching jobs in the nation and it was a very difficult and emotional decision for me to leave. I hope the extremely motivated and talented young team we have here, along with all of our team's outstanding supporters, will ultimately understand my decision to return home."
Prior to taking the reins at Maryland in 2003, Santoro served as an assistant coach at Lehigh for nine seasons. He was named the 2003 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association after helping lead the Mountain Hawks to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships that season.
The Terps went 16-4 in 2007-08 under Santoro and went 5-0 in the ACC for the second-straight season. Maryland's .800 winning percentage this season established a new school record and its 33 wins the last two years is more than any other two-year span in Terps history.
Santoro guided the Terps to the 2008 ACC Championship on March 8 at Comcast Center, their first title since 1973. Five wrestlers claimed individual championships and six represented Maryland at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, the most entrants for the Terps since 1990. All six of the wrestlers Maryland sent to nationals were underclassmen, as four of them were sophomores in eligibility and two were true freshmen.
"Coach Santoro and his family were terrific ambassadors for Maryland wrestling," Director of Athletics Deborah A. Yow said. "His leadership of our program has been successful in every way. We wish him well as he returns home and thank him for all he did for us. Those contributions will always be remembered and appreciated."
Maryland has steadily improved every year at the NCAA Championships under Santoro who mentored his first Terp All-American in sophomore Hudson Taylor. Maryland finished tied for 21st this season which was its best showing since 1992 and was the best for an ACC team since 2004.
Santoro guided Maryland back into the national rankings this year, climbing as high as No. 21. It was the first time the Terps had been ranked since 1993. Included in the 16 wins was one of the most impressive dual-meet victories in school history when the Terps beat No. 5 Michigan, 18-16, on November 24. The Terps also won at No. 22 Navy, marking the first time Maryland had won in Annapolis in 22 years. It was the first time Maryland had beaten the Midshipmen since 1997.
Santoro produced 15 All-ACC wrestlers in his five seasons and his wrestlers captured nine individual ACC titles. Taylor finished third at the NCAA Championships in March, which was the highest placing for a Terp since 1992. He was Maryland's first All-American since 1997.
A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.