Early Monday afternoon, Penn Athletics announced that Alex Tirapelle has been named the newest head coach of Penn’s wrestling program.
Tirapelle becomes the program’s 19th head coach after former Penn coach Rob Eiter resigned in late May. The hiring was the first coaching change under recently appointed Athletic Director Grace Calhoun, who took office at the beginning of July.
“Under the leadership of Deputy Athletics Director Alanna Shanahan, we underwent an exhaustive process to ensure we found the best possible fit with the standards of this high-profile program going forward,” Calhoun said in the press release.
“I think our athletes, alums and fans will be excited by the future direction of the program under Alex’s leadership.”
The past four years saw Tirapelle work as an assistant coach at Stanford, where he most recently helped the program to a 17-5 record, with five wrestlers advancing to the NCAA championships.
“There’s a fair share of differences as far as being a west coast institution and an east coast institution, but a lot of similarities,” Tirapelle said.
“You’re recruiting the same sort of kid, very academically prepared and a wrestler. It’s the same sort of challenge, you’re going to be challenged on the wrestling mat and the classroom.”
In inheriting the program from Rob Eiter and transferring into a headcoaching role, Tirapelle will be faced with unique challenges, though he believes the team already has a solid base of talent to start from.
Penn finished last season with an 8-6 record and sent four wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, where Lorenzo Thomas finished as an All-American at 184 pounds. The Quakers also had two wrestlers reach the finals of the EIWA Championships at the Palestra.
Now as part of the Ivy League, Tirapelle has a new set of challenges in facing top wrestling programs like Cornell and other up-and-coming programs in the league.
“The institutions are viewing it as an opportunity where they can succeed and do well,” Tirapelle said. “I think all these kids and programs, their individual successes as well as some team success, we’re hoping to contribute to that in a big way moving forward.”
Academic success has been one of Tirapelle’s focuses during his time as a student-athlete and as an assistant coach and is an area he hopes to transfer to his work at Penn.
“It starts with recruiting the right kids, obviously you’re going to recruit kids that are capable of the academic workload,” Tirapelle said.
“And just having an emphasis on success in the classroom. You want to see them win on the mats, but you want to see them win in the classrooms as well.”
During his college years at Illinois, Tirapelle was a two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champion. He was also named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 2004 and was a Big Ten All-Academic honoree all four years.