There are only seven words on a plaque that sits in Roger Reina's office. But those seven words -- "Energy and Persistence will Conquer all Things" -- are enough to capture the essence of the Penn wrestling coach's philosophy. Those seven words have motivated Reina to turn around a Penn program that was mired in disarray. When Reina took over as head coach of the Penn wrestling team back in 1986, the Quakers had won just two Ivy League matches in four years. But in the 15 years since, Reina has become the winningest coach in Penn wrestling history. And this success is a direct result of the Penn headman's energy and persistence. Reina, who spent most of his youth in Pennsylvania, began wrestling at a young age. "My older brother wrestled, and I had some good friends that got involved with it in elementary school," Reina said. "So between my older brother and friends that were interested, that's how I got started." Reina also played soccer, and at the end of high school, he had to decide between the two. "Wrestling, to me, was much more of a personal battle and an individual sport [than soccer]," Reina said. "It had a lot more personal intensity with it, and challenges both mentally and physically." Reina thus chose to wrestle while enrolled at Penn -- a choice that would prove to be quite beneficial. The veteran coach said that his years at Penn were full of the kinds of experiences that helped him grow individually. "Penn's a very challenging place," Reina said. "As an undergraduate, often times it's hard to recognize how those challenges are going to be helpful to you in later life. But the further away I am from graduation, the more I realize just how valuable the education is and how important those challenges are in terms of personal growth." Reina definitely left a mark on Penn's wrestling program. He started all four years and was named co-captain his senior year. A leader on the mat, he was also honored by being named to the all-Ivy team in his final season of wrestling. "First and foremost is mental toughness," Reina said of the keys to becoming a successful wrestler. "That's something that I think has been a real central aspect to Penn [wrestling]." But Reina's leadership role extended beyond the mat. He graduated on the dean's list with a degree in American History. And his emphasis on the academic aspect of being a student-athlete has not faltered over the years. In an interview with Noel Hynd of The Pennsylvania Gazette back in 1998, Reina highlighted the academic accomplishments of the stellar teams he has coached. "The academic success of our student-athletes must be stressed," Reina said. "[We're] in the top 10 of all teams nationally in terms of GPA. Penn offers the highest level of wrestling and academics anywhere in the U.S. This is what we're about." After graduation, Reina stayed at Penn to enroll in graduate-level courses and take on the role of an assistant coach. "I didn't have the intention of being a college coach," Reina explained. "When my coach Larry Lauchle chose to step down during my second year as an assistant coach, I thought, 'Wow, what a wonderful opportunity.'" Perhaps more than he realizes, Reina taking on the role of head coach in 1986 was equally wonderful for the Penn wrestling program. His teams have compiled a record of 165-80-6, and have been above .500 in 12 of his 14 seasons. Reina's impressive record at the helm of Penn wrestling has certainly not been without accolades. He was elected president of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association and chairman of the Ivy League Wrestling Coaches Association. In 1997, he received the Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation's "Contributor of the Year" Award and has been a National Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year nominee for the past four years. "You have to have a clear vision of what it takes to be successful and communicate that vision to the captains and the athletes on that team," Reina said. "Another component is not settling for anything less than someone's best efforts. I think we all face challenges in our lives, athletically, academically and in other ways. Too often we're willing to sell ourselves and our friends short." Reina has been very successful at conveying that message to his team. "He demands the most out of his athletes," Penn senior co-captain Mike Fickell said. "Whenever he's around you, it just lifts up the intensity in the room and really pushes you to reach your potential." Despite enormous success, Reina remains humble about his knowledge of the sport. "Wrestling is a sport that anyone who's paying attention can learn indefinitely," he said. But that is not to downplay Reina's knowledge. He has made a career out of paying attention to the finer nuances of the sport. In fact, his never-ending desire to learn more about wrestling has not gone unnoticed. "Strategically, coach [Reina] is one of the smartest coaches I know of," senior co-captain Yoshi Nakamura said. "He studies the sport, learns from it and takes all the different components [of wrestling] and puts them together." And yet, with so much success, Reina still finds things that motivate him as a coach. "Seeing someone who breaks through, believes in themselves and accomplishes something they've never done before -- that spark is the most motivating thing by far as a coach," Reina said. Reina, who is an avid rock climber, now has a new project in the works. With the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the nation at Penn last fall, he has the opportunity to mold those grapplers into a team that is consistent and dominant at all weight classes. Though only time will tell if Reina is successful with this new batch of Quakers, his philosophy of "Energy and Persistence" shouldn't allow him to stray too far from his goals.Comments powered by Disqus
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