Just over a year after graduating from North Carolina State, Pete Renda returned to his home state of Pennsylvania as an assistant coach for Penn wrestling with one goal in mind: winning championships.
Renda grew up in Topton, Pa. and wrestled at Brandywine Heights High School, just under 70 miles from where he now coaches at the Palestra.
Renda was a star in high school, amassing an impressive 162-22 record. His senior season was his most impressive, as he went undefeated in 42 matches en route to a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association 2A championship victory.
“I’m super excited, that’s a big part of why I came back to Pa., [to] give back to the best wrestling in the country,” Renda said.
Pennsylvania has been recognized for a long time as the most difficult state to be a champion wrestler in, but Renda won the 170-pound weight class while only dropping two points in state championship matches.
“If you look at kids that go on to win national titles in college, a lot of them come from Pa.,” Renda said.
In college at NC State, Renda continued his outstanding success. Among his many accomplishments were an Atlantic Coast Conference championship victory and an All-America selection in 2016.
More impressively, however, Renda was one of the leaders of a program turnaround. Just two years before Renda arrived in Raleigh, N.C., the Wolfpack named Pat Popolizio as their new head coach. The team had not won an ACC championship since 2006, but finally finished atop the conference in 2015, thanks in part to Renda’s leadership as captain.
Not only being present for but also helping lead this culture change gave Renda unique experiences and perspective.
“I got to see that whole culture change at NC State and build a championship culture there,” Renda said. “That’s kind of what we’re in the midst of right now, here … getting everyone to buy in and to believe that they can win national titles.”
Now in his new role, Renda is focused on getting that buy-in from every wrestler that comes into the program.
“What we’re trying to do is just explain [to recruits] the opportunity here right now is to come and be a pioneer on this team, and have that same great experience of helping this team rise up in the ranks of the NCAA,” Renda said.
This philosophy is exactly what makes Renda such a great fit at Penn. Coach Roger Reina sought him out as someone that could teach not only technique, especially to the wrestlers in heavier weight classes, but also what goes into being a leader for a winning program.
“He loves the sport, he understands it inside out, and he has a big heart in terms of committing to developing others to realize their goals,” Reina said.
“He’s got a lot of talents but that’s probably the most important attribute of a great coach.”