Matt Azevedo, the Mert and Joanne Hill Head Coach of Wrestling, is in his 12th season as head coach of Drexel Wrestling after joining the Dragons in April 2011 following successful coaching stints at Cornell and Cal Poly. Azevedo has led the program’s resurgence and ushered in a new era of Drexel Wrestling in the EIWA. The 2020 inductee into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame is the eighth head coach in the school’s history and replaced Jack Childs, who retired after 35 seasons at Drexel.The Dragons have climbed onto the national scene and into the national rankings under Azevedo. The Dragons earned their first USA Today
/NWCA DI Coaches Poll national ranking under Azevedo and remained ranked in the Top 25 for six weeks during the 2016-17 season. The following year, the Dragons finished the 2017-18 regular season ranked in the top 25 of four separate polls – USA Today
/NWCA DI Coaches, FloWrestling, Intermat tournament and Intermat dual – for the first time in program history.On the mat, the Dragons have won 84 matches, including 10-win seasons under Azevedo’s guidance. In 2016-17, Drexel finished with 13 dual victories, its most since the 2006-07 season. The Dragons have taken down ranked nationally ranked opponents in three of the last seven years – No. 21 Rider, 18-14, in Feb. 2018; No. 25 Princeton in Dec. 2016; and No. 20 Northwestern, 21-20, in Nov. 2015. Drexel also dramatically came back to tie the overall score at 20-20 on a late third-period pin against No. 5 Lehigh in Dec. 2017, despite the Mountain Hawks winning on criteria. The Dragons also recorded major victories over Penn in 2016, their first since 1989, against Hofstra in 2013, their first since 1997, and against Binghamton in 2020, their first since 2006.Azevedo has coached 40 NCAA Wrestling Championships qualifiers in his first 11 seasons at the helm. Despite having the 2019-20 season cut short and the 2020-21 season shortened due to the pandemic, the Dragons had all 10 wrestlers place at the EIWA Championships for the first time in program history and sent a program-best (tied with 2002 season) six wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis. Parker Kropman (157) Michael O’Malley (174), and Bryan McLaughlin (197) each qualified for their second appearance in tournament while Julian Flores (141), Luke Nichter (149) and Evan Barczak (165) each received their first automatic bid to NCAA’s. During the 2022 season, O’Malley made his third-straight NCAA appearance and came within one win of All-American status. He was joined at the NCAA Championships by Barczak for the second straight year. In 2020, Antonio Mininno (125), O’Malley (174) and Bryan McLaughlin (197) earned automatic bids to their first-ever championships, and Ebed Jarrell (165) received an at-large selection to the tournament. Additionally, Parker Kropman (157) was named the first alternate at his weight class. In 2019, Drexel qualified four Dragons for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh: Kropman (149), Jarrell (165), Stephen Loiseau (197) and Joey Goodhart (285). In 2018, the Dragons sent a then program-best five wrestlers to Cleveland, Ohio for NCAAs.
Four Dragons have gone on to win conference championships during Azevedo’s tenure, including three since the school joined the EIWA. O’Malley was the school’s latest winner after taking home the EIWA title at 174 in 2022. Matt Cimato won the EIWA title at 149 pounds in 2016, the year after Kevin Devoy won the EIWA title at 133 pounds in 2015. In 2013, 197-pounder Brandon Palik became Drexel’s final CAA champion. The Dragons have seen the EIWA podium become commonplace over the last eight years as 51 wrestlers have placed at the conference tournament. In 2021, Drexel had all 10 wrestlers place at EIWA’s, passing the previous program-record eight in 2018. The Dragons performance was highlighted by a second-place finish by O’Malley (174), a third place finish by Nichter (149) and three fourth-place finishes by Flores (141), McLaughlin (197) and Barczak (165).
In the classroom, Drexel Wrestling has been a standout academic program in the nation. Drexel finished as an NWCA DI Top 30 All-Academic Team eight of the last nine seasons and has boasted the nation’s best team GPA twice. In 2021, the Dragons earned a spot as the seventh highest GPA in the nation at 3.46 and led the list of individual honorees. In 2020, the Dragons claimed high honors with a 3.59 GPA. The year prior, the Dragons were the top academic DI wrestling team in the country with a program-best 3.63 GPA. The Dragons have had 32 NWCA Academic All-America individual selections during that time, including 10 in 2021. They have also had 47 wrestlers have earned EIWA All-Academic Team selections since the award began in 2016, including eight in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Also, 11 wrestlers have been named Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area At-Large Team selections, including Jarrell in 2020 when he was named a co-performer of the year. Jarrell capped a stellar five-year career in University City with an appearance on the CoSIDA Academic All-District 2 Men’s At-Large Team.
While at Cornell, Azevedo helped the Big Red earn nine All-America honors, nine EIWA champions and seven Academic All-Americans. He also guided the team to back-to-back second-place finishes at the NCAA championships, which marked the best performance in school history. Prior to his time at Cornell, Azevedo spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly, where he coached seven All-Americans and eight Pac-10 champions. He also helped guide Cal Poly to its highest finish in school history at the Pac-10 championships by placing second in 2004 and 2006.
Azevedo wrestled collegiately at Arizona State and Iowa State, each for two seasons. He advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons. Azevedo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Iowa State in 2002. He continued his wrestling career after graduation and went on to be a seven-time U.S. National place winner, two-time U.S. National Team member and won the 2008 U.S. Open National Championship.