Although Sunday is Senior Day for Jimmy Gulibon, Geno Morelli, Caleb Livingston, and Brian Brill, for one Penn State wrestler, the team’s home dual against Maryland will be a homecoming. Twenty years after he graduated, two-time NCAA Champion and 1997 Hodge Trophy winner Kerry McCoy will return to Rec Hall for the first time in his head coaching career when his Terrapins visit State College for the final dual of the season.
The only other time that McCoy faced Penn State was in 2014, and the Nittany Lions clobbered Maryland 38-3 in College Park.
While at Penn State, McCoy amassed a 150-18 record, the second most wins in program history behind Jim Martin’s 155. After a 19-17 freshman season, McCoy won 131 out of his last 132 matches — including a streak of 89 wins during his sophomore and junior seasons. McCoy’s only loss during his last three years was in the semifinals of the 1995 NCAA Championships, where he dropped a 4-3 decision to Justin Greenlee.
After college, McCoy went on to represent the United States in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics — placing fifth and seventh, respectively. On that 2004 Olympic team, McCoy wrestled alongside future Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who won a gold medal at 84 kg.
Even with Penn State’s recent dynasty that churns out legions of All-Americans every season, McCoy remains one of the program’s most decorated wrestlers. He is one of six Nittany Lions to win multiple individual titles with Ed Ruth being the only one with three championships.
“McCoy’s one of our all-time greats. When you think of Penn State wrestling, his name is one of the ones that come to mind,” Sanderson said. “We’re really proud of what he did here and the legacy that he has here. It’s something we’ll always honor. His loyalties are to Maryland, but he’s a guy a lot of people care a lot about around here.”
On Sunday, McCoy will see the new generation of Penn State stars facing off with his team, which has struggled greatly this season — going 0-7 in the Big Ten and 2-12 overall. Although many members of this year’s Penn State team have the potential to win national titles, one Nittany Lion in particular — reigning champ at 149 lbs Zain Retherford — is looking to join that exclusive multi-title club later this season in St. Louis.
The team that McCoy brings into Rec Hall will be much different than the ones he is used to being part of there. Since Maryland joined the Big Ten, the Terrapins are 1-24 in the conference play. Their struggles are something a bit new for McCoy, both as a coach and as a wrestler.
To start his head coaching career after serving as an assistant at Penn State and Lehigh, McCoy laid the foundation for Stanford — a team that had only two winning seasons in the previous 14 years before he took over. In three seasons under McCoy, Stanford gained a national presence — landing its second-best NCAA Championships finish ever and a 13-4 dual record in his final year.
After building up Stanford, which is now ranked No. 21 in the nation, McCoy took a big-time job in 2008 at Maryland where he won the ACC as a first-year coach. He grabbed two more conference titles before the Terrapins made their historic move over to the Big Ten after 60 years in the ACC.
Although Maryland’s transition has been rough, the Terrapins have the right man for the job — someone who is from a winning culture, well traveled, and accomplished in the sport on multiple levels.
Before every home dual, a Penn State wrestling alumnus leads the crowd in a “We Are” cheer by waving a flag at the center of the mat. Whether it be David Taylor or Frank Mollinaro, each wrestler gets a standing ovation. While McCoy likely won’t be directing the fans in yelling “We Are” on Sunday, Happy Valley will still be welcoming one of its original heroes home to Rec Hall.