Penn hires Alex Tirapelle as new head coach

By Chas Dorman
Penn Athletics

Two-time All-America wrestler Alex Tirapelle has been named the 19th Head Coach of Wrestling in the history of the University of Pennsylvania. The announcement was made today by the University’s new Director of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics, M. Grace Calhoun.

“I am excited to welcome Alex to Penn,” said Calhoun, who took over as Director on July 1. “During the interview process, his accomplishments both as a wrestler and as a coach stood out. He enjoyed a stellar collegiate wrestling career at Illinois, and over the last few years he has developed a solid reputation as a strong recruiter and coach. Working at an institution like Stanford these last four years also gives Alex a good idea of the kind of student-athlete he will be expected to recruit and coach at Penn. 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. I think our athletes, alums and fans will be excited by the future direction of the program under Alex’s leadership.”

Tirapelle comes to Penn after four seasons as an assistant coach at Stanford University. While coaching the Cardinal, Tirapelle helped guide the program to its best dual-season record in school history with a 17-5 mark in 2013-14. In addition, last season’s squad sent five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships – tying the school record. Four of those NCAA qualifiers last season were Pac-12 champions, also a school record.

“I want to thank Grace Calhoun, Alanna Shanahan, and the rest of the search committee for selecting me to be the new head wrestling coach at the University of Pennsylvania. It is an honor to have the opportunity to advance the already exceptional legacy of Penn Wrestling,” Tirapelle said. “In addition to Olympic medalists, NCAA champions and NCAA All-Americans, Penn Wrestling produces outstanding citizens and some of the country’s most prominent leaders. While wrestling success will always be a primary goal of the Penn program, for our student-athletes it is a milestone accomplishment rather than their pinnacle achievement.”

In his four seasons on “The Farm,” Tirapelle helped guide 14 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, including Stanford’s second three-time All-America and first two-time finalist in Nick Amuchastegui. The Cardinal earned five total All-America honors during Tirapelle’s tenure, including three at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia – the highest All-America output at any NCAA Championships by a Stanford squad. The three All-Americans in 2011 propelled Stanford to an 11th-place finish overall, the highest team finish in program history.

Off the mat, Stanford continued to thrive academically during Tirapelle’s tenure. Last season, the Cardinal ranked No. 8 among all Division I programs in team GPA and had two wrestlers named National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Academic. One of those individuals, Kyle Meyer, also earned a Pac-12 Postgraduate Scholarship. Both of Stanford’s NWCA All-Academic selections last season were also NCAA qualifiers. At the conference level, Stanford led all Pac-12 programs with nine Pac-12 All-Academic honors. In the past four seasons, Stanford has had 30 wrestlers earn Pac-12 All-Academic honors.

Highlighting Stanford’s overall success during Tirapelle’s time was Amuchastegui. A four-time NCAA qualifier, three-time All-American and two-time finalist, Amuchastegui was twice named Capital One/CoSIDA Men’s At-Large Academic All-American of the Year and was a three-time Academic All-American, earning Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year accolades for wrestling in 2012 and twice earning the NCAA’s Elite88 Award for Division I wrestling.

“I look forward to developing men of valor and providing them with the resources and guidance necessary to strive for excellence in education, athletics, and life after college,” said Tirapelle. “Furthermore, I am excited to become a contributing member of Penn’s Athletic Department.”

Prior to his time at Stanford, Tirapelle served as an assistant coach at UC-Davis for two seasons. While with the Aggies, Tirapelle coached one Pac-12 champion and six NCAA qualifiers. In addition, two wrestlers earned Pac-12 All-Academic honors.
Before working with the Aggies, he spent seven years at the University of Illinois as a student-athlete, graduate student and member of the academic advising staff.

Tirapelle twice earned All-America status at Illinois, captured two Big Ten titles, and was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 2004. As a freshman in 2003, he finished as the national runner-up and earned Illinois Freshman Male Athlete of the Year honors in the process. Tirapelle finished his career as the Illini’s all-time wins leader with 128, while ranking third with an .877 winning percentage.

Along with his impressive athletic career, Tirapelle racked up several academic honors. He was a Big Ten All-Academic honoree all four years, a first-team NWCA All-Academic selection, and first-team ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American. In addition, Tirapelle earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Tirapelle holds a pair of degrees from Illinois, graduating in 2006 with a B.S. in accountancy and earning a Master’s in sports management in 2009.

Alex and his wife Amy, also an Illinois graduate who was a member of the cross country and track & field teams, will reside in Philadelphia.

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