Pataky an ideal wrestler
By: Jocelyn Syrstad
Collegian Staff Writer
When Brad Pataky opens his locker, there is a small sign hanging on the inside for the rest of his team to see that simply reads, "Have fun."
The sign is a reminder to the sophomore on the Penn State wrestling team to go out on the mat and try to get the win, but to relax and enjoy his time competing as well. Junior Dan Vallimont said the note is one of the many ways his teammate sets an example for the rest of the Nittany Lions.
Vallimont said his teammate is very shy, but is constantly demonstrating what it takes to be a wrestler at the collegiate level. He said Pataky is an example to not only the underclassmen on the team, but the upperclassmen as well.
"I like to think that I'm a leader," Pataky said. "I know that they have leaders that are chosen, but I know we've had some guys that are out right now. Anything that I can do to help the team, I'd like to try and put my input in even though I don't want to say anything too much."
Penn State assistant coach Matt Dernlan described Pataky as "the epitome of what we want from our student-athletes." He said the Clearfield native is always the first one to arrive to practice and the last one to leave. Freshman Quentin Wright said Pataky will even show up in the training room when the starters have the day off.
At the end of nearly every practice, the Lions perform a drill where the team runs the length of the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex and the first person to touch the opposite wall gets to be done practicing. Pataky sprints to the other side of the room with what looks like little effort, and is almost always the first Lion to complete the drill.
Dernlan said Pataky is someone the coaches usually have to tell to stop doing things and to slow down rather than to get going.
"He sets the tone for the rest of the team," Dernlan said. "He may be the smallest guy on the team, but he has the biggest heart."
Pataky carries that attitude off the mats as well. His teammates said they enjoy spending time with the sophomore, and Wright simply said, "he's awesome." Wright said his teammate is quiet, but is extremely nice to everybody he meets.
The 125-pounder said he hopes to become a history teacher and wrestling coach at a high school when he graduates. His passion for history can be seen in his small collection of hats, replica guns and other clothing items from the Civil War that he bought in his several trips to Gettysburg battlefield.
The sophomore also said he enjoys to watch movies and listen to country music in his spare time. However, Pataky said his fondest memory while being a Lion is getting to know his teammates and keeping in touch with them after they graduate.
"He's a different person when he wrestles and when you're just hanging out with him," Vallimont said. "Just watching him wrestle, you'd think he was really intense and everything, but hanging out with him he's a really relaxed nice guy. He's one of the nicest people I've met in my life."
Wright said his "very cool" teammate is the hardest worker on the team, and he leaves everything on the mat when he wrestles. Pataky is currently the No. 13 ranked wrestler in the 125-pound weight class and has a record of 24-6.
While the team has been struggling since the start of the Big Ten conference season, Pataky has posted a 5-1 record. Dernlan said the sophomore's performances have been crucial to the team because he brings an energy and intensity to the dual meets that wouldn't be there otherwise.
Vallimont said Penn State counts on Pataky to get points and get the momentum going in the dual meets. But Pataky isn't letting the added pressure get to him.
"It's expected of me," Pataky said. "I just got to take that pressure and turn it into a positive thing, to something that I'm hungry for. I want to get that win, and if I can get more, that's what I want to get."
Dernlan said the 125-pounder has been huge to the team this season, and he sets the standards for his teammates. Pataky said his only goal for himself is to keep moving forward and to improve every time he steps onto the mat.
He said he also wants to continue to push his teammates to gain the fight and confidence they need in order to succeed.
Pataky's coaches and teammates said the sophomore has proven he can compete at this level, and they believe he will only continue to get better.
"He's the greatest kid in the world," Dernlan said. "He has a lot of intensity, but at the same time is the classiest kid. He is the epitome of what the NCAA expects from its athletes."
Tags: Brad Pataky, Dan Vallimont, Matt Dernlan, Quentin Wright