He played an integral role in the renaissance of the Lehigh wrestling program in the late 1990s. In his first year back, he led the Mountain Hawks to a school-record 23 dual wins, a second place EIWA finish, and was named EIWA Coach of the Year. In his 10th season, Bethlehem native Pat Santoro led the Mountain Hawks to the top of the EIWA, winning the program’s first EIWA title since 2006 and 35th overall. That accomplishment, plus a 12-3 dual season that resulted in a No. 8 final dual meet ranking, led to Santoro to earn NWCA National Coach of the Year honors. Santoro enters his 14th season looking to maintain Lehigh’s perch at the top of the EIWA, while molding the Mountain Hawks into a perennial top ten team and national championship contender. Santoro was hired in April, 2008 as just the eighth head coach in program history. He holds the title as the Lawrence White Head Coach of Wrestling at Lehigh.
A six-time EIWA Coach of the Year, Santoro has mentored two NCAA Champions at Lehigh, the second of which, Darian Cruz won the 125-pound title in 2017. He has led 20 individuals to a total of 31 EIWA titles, while guiding 17 men to 31 total All-American honors. Santoro finished the 2020-21 season with a dual meet record of 159-60-1 at Lehigh.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-21 was the most unusual of seasons. Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks through several preseason training starts and stoppages. COVID related cancellations shorted an already abbreviated season to seven duals, but the Mountain Hawks performed at their best at the end of February. Lehigh pulled away from the field to win its fourth consecutive EIWA team championship at Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pa. The Mountain Hawks crowned four individual champions, including heavyweight Jordan Wood who became a four-time EIWA champion, and qualified all 10 entrants for the NCAA Championships. For his efforts, Santoro captured his sixth EIWA Coach of the Year award.
Santoro led Lehigh to its third straight EIWA team title in 2019-20, capping a strong 12-3 dual meet season that saw Santoro reach a pair of personal milestones. Lehigh’s 19-14 victory at Cornell on Jan. 11 was Santoro’s 150th as the Mountain Hawks’ head coach. A week later, Lehigh defeated Navy 23-9 for the 200th head coaching victory of Santoro’s career.
The 2019-20 season saw Lehigh defeat a pair of top five opponents in duals, as the Mountain Hawks opened the dual season with a criteria win over No. 4 Oklahoma State and closed it with a victory over No. 5 Arizona State.
A tight battle was expected at the EIWA Championships at Stabler Arena, but the Mountain Hawks rose to the challenge. Lehigh had nine place winners, five finalists and three champions on the way to its third straight team title. All three individual champions were repeat titlists, as Jordan Kutler and Jordan Wood won their third consecutive conference titles and Josh Humphreys won his second straight. For his efforts, Santoro was named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fifth time.
Despite the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament in Minnesota, five Mountain Hawks were recognized as All-Americans by the NWCA: conference champions Humphreys, Kutler and Wood plus juniors Brandon Paetzell and Chris Weiler.
For the 2018-19 Mountain Hawks, it was a matter not of how they started, but how they finished. A rash of early-season injuries and a challenging schedule led to an 0-7 dual start, but the Mountain Hawks rebounded winning nine of their last 11 duals. Lehigh knocked-off EIWA rival Cornell during the dual season and then beat the Big Red again at the EIWA Championships to secure the program’s second straight EIWA team title and 36th overall.
Junior Jordan Kutler and sophomore Jordan Wood won their second consecutive EIWA titles, while freshman Josh Humphreys also won an individual championship. The Mountain Hawks qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh and continued their strong finish to the season, crowning three All-Americans, while having two others fall just one win short of All-America status as part of a 13th place finish. Kutler earned his second straight podium finish while Wood and senior Ryan Preisch earned All-America honors for the first time.
The Mountain Hawks also achieved off the mat, with Lehigh ranking 15th among Division I wrestling programs in terms of GPA of their postseason starting lineup and six of Lehigh’s NCAA qualifiers were named to the NWCA All-Academic Team.
Santoro led Lehigh to its 35th EIWA team title and first since 2006 with an impressive 164.5 point performance in 2018. The Mountain Hawks crowned five individual EIWA champions and had all 10 wrestlers earn berths for the NCAA Championships. After leading Lehigh to its first league title in 12 seasons, Santoro was named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fourth time. He also led Lehigh to a top 10 dual meet finish as the Mountain Hawks posted a 12-3 dual record that included a convincing win over then-No. 4 Michigan while also pushing No. 1 Penn State to the bring in a 23-19 loss in front of a Lehigh home dual record crowd of 9,896 at PPL Center in Allentown.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Santoro was named NWCA National Coach of the Year, for Lehigh’s performance during the dual season and EIWA Tournament. At the national tournament, Santoro’s Lehigh team produced three All-Americans, with Darian Cruz becoming a three-time All-American, Scott Parker earning his second medal and Jordan Kutler reaching the podium for the first time. Three other Lehigh wrestlers finished one win short of All-America honors.
Darian Cruz’s national title capped a successful campaign for the Mountain Hawks in 2016-17. Lehigh went 10-4 in duals and finished third at the Southern Scuffle during the regular season. The Mountain Hawks competed in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series for the second consecutive season, avenging a loss to Rutgers a year prior with a 23-10 win inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Darian Cruz and Scott Parker won individual EIWA titles at the first two weights and both wrestlers went on to earn All-America honors, with Parker finishing eighth at 133 in addition to Cruz’s national title. Three other wrestlers fell just short of All-America honors as Lehigh finished 12th at the NCAA Championships. Seven Mountain Hawks qualified for the NCAA Championships with all seven winning at least one match.
Santoro earned his third EIWA Coach of the Year award in 2015-16. He led the Mountain Hawks to a 13-3 dual record that included Lehigh’s first win over rival Cornell since 2011. Lehigh went 7-0 against EIWA opponents and represented the conference in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series. The Mountain Hawks finished second at the EIWA Championships with lineup bookends Darian Cruz and Max Wessell winning their first career titles. All 10 Mountain Hawks placed at the EIWA Tournament while nine wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Lehigh crowned three All-Americans at the NCAA Championships for the third straight year with Wessell and Randy Cruz earning their first career All-America medals, while Nathaniel Brown became a two-time All-American. The Mountain Hawks finished 14th as a team at Madison Square Garden.
In 2014-15, Santoro earned his 100th victory as Lehigh’s head coach when the Mountain Hawks upset eventual NCAA Champion Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the NWCA National Duals. The win over Ohio State was one of the highlights of a season that saw the Mountain Hawks go 14-6 in duals.
Lehigh’s lineup featured just two seniors but a strong core of sophomores and juniors continued to impress. Randy Cruz won his second EIWA title to help lead Lehigh to a second place conference finish. Nathaniel Brown reached the NCAA finals at 184 while Mason Beckman and Mitch Minotti earned All-America honors for the second straight year. As a team the Mountain Hawks finished 13th at the NCAA Championships.
Santoro led the 2013-14 Lehigh squad through the ups and downs that come with a young roster.
The Mountain Hawks’ regular lineup featured just one senior and no juniors but a young talented group managed to win ten duals. Lehigh enjoyed a strong EIWA tournament, with Mason Beckman winning an individual title to lead the Mountain Hawks to a second place finish. The young Mountain Hawks soared at the NCAA Championships with freshmen Darian Cruz and Mitch Minotti joining Beckman in earning All-America honors, giving Lehigh at least three All-Americans for the third time in four years. Cruz and Minotti were Lehigh’s first freshmen All-Americans since 2003 with Cruz also becoming Lehigh’s first true freshman All-American in 34 years.
In 2012-13, Santoro worked with a young team that battled through injuries and a string of bad luck and helped guide the Mountain Hawks to ten dual meet wins. Three individuals won individual EIWA titles including Randy Cruz, who became Lehigh’s first true freshman EIWA champion since 1980. Under Santoro’s guidance Robert Hamlin became Lehigh’s 16th three-time All-American and reached the NCAA finals for the second time in his career.
Under Santoro’s direction, Lehigh continued to make strides in 2011-12. The Mountain Hawks finished eighth at the NCAA Championships for the second straight year and once again had two finalists in Zack Rey and Brandon Hatchett. Lehigh crowned four All-Americans, its most since having five in 2004. At the EIWA Championships, Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks within a mere 2.5 points of the team title. Hamlin won his second straight EIWA title, while Hatchett won his first. Shane Welsh was the surprise of the tournament, capturing the title at 149 from the No. 6 seed. Lehigh’s three championships were its most since 2006. For his efforts, Santoro was voted EIWA Coach of the Year for the second time.
Santoro’s third season in Bethlehem proved to be his best to date on the national level. Lehigh returned to the top ten at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006 with an eighth place finish. The Mountain Hawks crowned three All-Americans for the first time in five years and placed two wrestlers in the NCAA finals for the first time since 2003. Rey became Santoro’s first national champion and the 27th in Lehigh history with his triumph in Philadelphia. Lehigh enjoyed another strong dual meet season, going 15-6 and finishing eighth in the national rankings. The Mountain Hawks took second at the EIWA Championships with Hamlin winning an individual title, a precursor to his second place NCAA finish.
In 2009-10, Santoro guided the Mountain Hawks to a 16-3-1 dual record and a top-ten national dual meet ranking for most of the season. Lehigh had a record six place-winners at the Midlands Championships and reached the finals at the Virginia Duals for the second straight season. In March, Santoro guided Rey to an EIWA title and All-America honors with a third place finish at the NCAA Championships, the program’s first All-American in four years.
Santoro produced an immediate turnaround in his first season back in Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks won their first 15 duals to start the season, including victories over the likes of Maryland, Michigan, Penn State and Lehigh’s first-ever dual win over Oklahoma State. The team’s 23-1 dual mark surpassed the school record for dual wins in a season. Santoro guided Seth Ciasulli and David Craig to individual EIWA Championships, while the Mountain Hawks finished second in the conference and qualified seven wrestlers for the NCAA Championships.
Before returning to Lehigh, Santoro spent the previous 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. That year, 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 his last two seasons.
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 third EIWA title in four years, and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, at the time the program’s best finish in 24 years.
Before coming to Lehigh, Santoro spent the 1993-94 season as an assistant coach at Duquesne and the two seasons prior to that as a graduate assistant at Penn State.
Regarded throughout the community as one of the sport’s top teachers and recruiters, Santoro has enjoyed success at every level of wrestling, both as a coach and a competitor. 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. A three-time Eastern Wrestling League Champion, he was the recipient of Pittsburgh’s Golden Panther Award in 1989, recognizing the outstanding athlete of the year.
On the international scene, Santoro enjoyed a stellar career which spanned nearly a decade. He was a four time member of the U.S. National Team between 1995 and 1999 and served as an alternate for the 1996 Olympic Team and the 1999 World Team. Santoro placed fourth at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, third at the 1992 Olympic Trials and was runner-up in the 1992 U.S. Open Freestyle Championships.
Santoro earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pittsburgh in 1992. In addition to his Bethlehem roots and previous coaching stint at Lehigh, Santoro’s father, uncle and brother all wrestled for the Brown and White.
Santoro and his wife Julie have a daughter, Leah and a son, Mack.
2021……. Led Lehigh to fourth straight EIWA title
…………… Named EIWA Coach of the Year for the sixth time
2020……. Named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fifth time
…………… Led Lehigh to third consecutive EIWA title
2019……. Led Lehigh to back-to-back EIWA team titles
2018……. Guided Lehigh to first EIWA title in 12 years
…………… EIWA Coach of the Year
…………… NWCA National Coach of the Year
2017……. Coached second NCAA Champion (Darian Cruz)
2016……. EIWA Coach of the Year
2012……. EIWA Coach of the Year
2011……. Coached first NCAA Champion (Zack Rey)
2009……. EIWA Coach of the Year
…………… Led Lehigh to school single-season record 23 dual wins
2008……. ACC Coach of the Year
…………… Guided Maryland to first ACC title in 35 years
2007……. Led Maryland to school record-tying 17 dual wins
2003……. NWCA National Assistant Coach of the Year
1995-03… Coached four EIWA Championship teams and four
…………… NCAA top ten teams as Lehigh assistant coach
1993-94… Duquesne assistant coach
1991-93… Penn State assistant coach
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