Photo: Penn Athletics

Valenti returns to coaching, will lead Penn after 2024-25 season

PHILADELPHIA -- The torch is being passed from Penn wrestling's all-time winningest coach to its all-time winningest student-athlete.

Two-time NCAA wrestling champion and Penn Athletics Hall of Famer Matt Valenti C'07 will return to coaching effective immediately as associate head coach and will succeed Roger Reina C'84 as the program's head coach on April 1, 2025. Reina will remain the head coach in 2024-25, culminating in Penn's co-hosting of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Center, and will serve as head coach emeritus for his final year of coaching in 2025-26.

"I am absolutely thrilled for Matt, Roger and our wrestling program that we were able to successfully and thoughtfully plan for this leadership transition," Alanna Shanahan, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W'69 Director of Athletics and Recreation said. "The opportunity for these two alumni to work together for two years will be powerful and impactful for our student-athletes."

Valenti is the program's career leader in wins (137) and won NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007 at 133 pounds. He was a three-time NCAA All-American, a three-time EIWA champion, three-time first-team All-Ivy selection and the 2007 Ivy League Wrestler of the Year. Valenti was inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017 and the EIWA Hall of Fame in 2014.

"Matt's incredible success as a student-athlete at Penn was worthy of induction into our Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility," Shanahan said. "That athletic background, combined with his prior coaching experience at Penn, strong ties to the alumni and campus community, and robust administrative experience in student-athlete success, mental health and as our admissions liaison made him the ideal choice to succeed Roger and lead the Penn wrestling program. Matt has been successful during every stage of his career and I'm confident his return to the coaching ranks will benefit our current and future student-athletes in competition, in the classroom and in the community."

"As a proud alumnus, it is a tremendous honor to step into a leadership role with the Penn wrestling program," Valenti said. "Roger's legacy is unparalleled, and I am committed to continuing and enhancing the tradition of excellence that he has cultivated through the years. Together with the Penn wrestling team, alumni, staff, and community, I look forward to forging a path of continued success both on and off the mat."

"This thoughtful transition will enable our Penn wrestlers, families, staff and alumni to work together over the next two years to effectively navigate the change and empower the successful future of Penn wrestling. Our community is committed to a lasting legacy of excellence," Reina said. "I am excited to begin working with Matt along with our staff in the continued pursuit of our goals."

Among post-graduate freestyle honors, Valenti won the bronze medal at 60 kg at the Pan-American Championships and third place for the LVAC at the 2009 U.S. National Open. He also placed fourth at a U.S. World Team Trials in a weight class featuring five former or future World Team members.

Valenti began his coaching career as an assistant and then associate head coach at Columbia from 2007-09, before returning to Penn as an assistant wrestling coach from 2009-15. At Penn, he coached four All-Americans (Scott Giffin, Zack Kemmerer, Micah Burak, and Lorenzo Thomas), two EIWA champions (Bryan Ortenzio, Micah Burak), and eight first-team All-Ivy honorees in addition to recruiting a pair of top 20 classes.

He transitioned to athletic administration in 2015 as the Assistant Athletic Director/Recruiting for two years and has served Penn Athletics in various administrative roles over the past decade including Associate AD/Sports Performance & Student-Development (2017-19), Associate AD/Student-Athlete Success (2019-23) and his most recent role as Senior Associate AD/Student-Athlete Leadership and Development. Valenti has served as the sport administrator for numerous Penn varsity programs, including wrestling, was the chair of the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee for two years, and is currently on the NCAA Wrestling Committee.

"I couldn't be more excited for the Penn wrestling community that this succession plan has been confirmed," David S. Pottruck C'70 WG'72, Penn Athletics Hall of Famer and former University trustee said. "This transition exemplifies a commitment to the lasting legacy of excellence of the program, which has been built by the student-athletes, coaches, and alumni over many decades. Matt exemplifies the excellence we shoot for, as a champion in every sense of the word. With both Matt and Roger's leadership, our wrestlers and the program are in good hands."

Reina, also a member of the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame, will conclude his coaching career following the 2025-26 season as one of the most successful coaches in NCAA wrestling history. Following the 2023-24 season, Reina's career record is 248-144 (.633).

He originally led the Quakers from 1986-2005 and amassed a program-record 205 wins during his first tenure coaching at his alma mater, which began at the age of 24 as the youngest head coach in program history. He guided the Quakers to four consecutive EIWA championships including setting records for most points scored and largest margin of victory that stand today.

"Roger will continue his impact on the program as head coach next year and head coach emeritus in 2025-26," Shanahan said. "His leadership and stewardship of the program over two stints and more than a quarter century has been remarkable. Penn wrestlers have achieved national and Ivy League success in competition, have given back to the program and local community in impactful ways, and have embodied the core values of Penn wrestling and Penn Athletics (aiming big, humility, character first, community matters and enjoyment). I look forward to the next two years and celebrating Roger's coaching career."

Penn earned eight Ivy League titles during his initial run as head coach, and he recruited and coached a pair of NCAA champions (Brett Matter, Matt Valenti) as well as an Olympic Gold Medalist (Brandon Slay). Matter, the President of the Penn Grapplers' Club, and Slay, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center (PRTC) hosted at Penn and Drexel, both remain involved in the program and Philadelphia wrestling eco-system. Reina was a co-founder of the PRTC and like Valenti, serves on its board.

Reina led Penn to five NCAA Top 20 finishes in a six-year span including a Top 10 NCAA finish and additionally two eighth place finishes at the National Dual Meet Championships. He has coached All-Americans and national freestyle champions at every age division in the United States.

Since returning as Penn's head coach in 2017, Reina has guided Penn back into the top 20 national rankings. Eight Quakers recently qualified for the 2024 NCAA Championships, which makes it a total of 25 qualifiers in the past three years. The program has compiled a 12-3 Ivy League record since the pandemic (2021-24) and risen as high as #18 in the national rankings.

During his career, Reina has coached 19 All-Americans, 122 All-Ivy honorees, 106 NCAA qualifiers, 145 EIWA place-winners, 32 EIWA champions, five Ivy League Wrestlers of the Year, and five Ivy League Rookies of the Year.

Reina was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania chapter, for lifetime service in 2017. He has received the National Wrestling Coaches Association's highest awards, including Meritorious Service and Bob Bubb Coaching Excellence Award, and served as the Association's President.

In conjunction with this transition, Penn Wrestling will be announcing a significant fundraising campaign to further cement the foundation of excellence in perpetuity for the program.