Alex Tirapelle, the new leader of Penn’s wrestling, won’t be turning any heads with his style of coaching.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tirapelle, most recently an assistant coach at a thriving Stanford program, brings a workman-like mentality to a Penn program that is trying to get a more consistent effort out of its deep squad this season.
“It’s not an exciting philosophy [that I have],” Tirapelle said. “We focus on the nuts and bolts of wrestling and the ancillary areas like discipline, attention to detail, hard work — all the stuff that’s not necessarily all that flashy, all that entertaining on paper, but that makes a significant difference in the results.”
So far, the team has bought into Tirapelle’s way of conducting business.
“There’s been a lot of change, but it’s been good change,” senior All-American Lorenzo Thomas said. “Everyone’s getting used to it, everything’s going well.”
Tirapelle had a similar take on his start as head coach.
“It’s been busy,” Tirapelle said. “It’s been a good busy. I feel like we’ve been productive.”
The Illinois alumni did admit to being initially unsure about how he would be received as the new head coach, although those fears were quickly washed away.
“As a new head coach, you don’t know exactly how the guys are going to be,” Tirapelle said. “I was optimistic for a 50-50 split of guys wanting or resisting the change, but it has actually been really good. Everyone’s been really receptive, working hard and I’m really excited to start the season.”
It’s not surprising at all that Tirapelle commands respect and is able to get strong responses out of his wrestlers given his impressive track record.
Penn’s new coach was a two-time All-American at his alma mater and coached five All-Americans at Stanford.
Tirapelle is not the only new Penn coach with a championship pedigree, however.
Pete Friedl, a teammate of Tirapelle’s at Illinois and most recently assistant coach at American, will be joining the Quakers’ staff as well.
Friedl — who was a three-time All-American in the 184-pound class — was what Tirapelle termed a “comfortable hire” given their past relationship.
Although Penn’s coaching staff this season will be made up of several new faces, it retains a key member in Matt Valenti.
Valenti, a two-time national champion and third-year assistant coach for Quakers, knows the Penn program as well as anyone and has been a big help to Tirapelle in his transition.
“I came into a fortunate situation where coach Valenti has a lot of first hand experience with the program,” Tirapelle said. “He was able to get me on track much earlier than I would be able to on my own. That minimized the amount of lost time with the transition.”
Tirapelle is confident that his team is positioned for a strong start to the season, but he is more concerned with putting in the necessary work than setting specific performance goals.
“I think we have a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but it’s difficult to really measure that or try to gauge that without having seen any competition,” Tirapelle said.
“We’re just busting our butts right now, working hard trying to get a little bit better each day. Hopefully by the end we’ll be able to turn some heads.”
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