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Pitman wrestling staff honored with national awards
Pitman wrestling award
The Pitman High 2023-2024 wrestling coaching staff of Derek Young, Matthew Vasconcellos, Adam Vasconcellos, Alejandro Talamante, Cody Vasconcellos and Luke Leiser pose with certificates from the National Wrestling Coaches Association acknowledging the program’s success from last season (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

Despite the 2023-2024 high school wrestling season being right around the corner, the Pitman High program is still collecting hardware for their impressive efforts in last year’s campaign. Last week, head coach Adam Vasconcellos and his coaching staff received national recognition from the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA).

The NWCA was established in 1928 to serve and provide leadership for the advancement of all levels of wrestling with a primary emphasis on scholastic and collegiate programs. They also aim to promote communication, recognize achievement, recommend rules and regulations and educate on the sport. 

Vasconcellos was the recipient of the organization's Section 7 Coach of the Year, while his staff was named Section 7 Assistant Coaching Staff of the Year. Both are awarded on the basis of tenure, coaching record, professional honors and service to the sport of wrestling.

“I had never really heard of the awards, so it’s kind of crazy, but at the same time I’m really honored,” Vasconcellos said. “We put in a lot of time. We’ve helped so many kids. It’s a family thing for us. It’s exciting because it’s a reflection of our kids.”

Last season was highlighted by a state championship won by 121-pounder Lilly Avalos. Joining Avalos in the finals were Baya and Gabby Austin, who each earned runner-up positions in their respective weight classes. Mason Ontiveros also medaled at the state meet, grabbing fifth-place in the 170-pound bracket. 

As a team, the Pitman girls claimed a third-place finish at the state tournament and were Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champions. Meanwhile, the boys celebrated a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title. 

“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and how much time we’ve invested in the sport of wrestling,” said assistant coach Matthew Vasconcellos. “It’s one of those things where it’s a nice accolade that [recognizes] everything that we do and that we believe in our program. It’s not just big for our wrestling team, but it means a lot to our whole school, our support staff, everybody here on campus.”

Assistant coach Derek Young acknowledged that the awards are presented to the coaches, but gave an abundance of credit to the student-athletes they work with on a daily basis.

“It’s nice to have these awards, but honestly, these kids make it so easy for us to coach,” Young said. “They come in here day in and day out to work as hard as they can. They really want to get better.”

While accomplishments on the mat have been the subject of much praise and coverage, each of the staff members emphasized how proud they were with what their wrestlers have achieved in their studies, with nearly a quarter of them having had a 4.0 GPA. The boys ended up with a combined 3.69 GPA and the girls a 3.84 GPA by season’s end.

“I know we won an athletic award, but what these boys and girls have accomplished not just on the wrestling mat, but in the classroom, is something we’re really proud of,” Matthew said. “When it comes down to what they've done both in wrestling and academically, I feel like our program is firing on all cylinders, and the coaching staff is a vital part of that.”

“This whole program is really one big family,” Adam added. “Everybody here makes it easy to come to work every day, and I can’t wait to see what we can do this year.”