Keith Gavin became an NCAA Division I national champion during his wrestling days at the University of Pittsburgh.
Now, almost a decade later, the Lackawanna Trail graduate will begin his head coaching career at Pittsburgh.
Gavin was formally introduced as the new head coach of the Panthers April 14, a day after he accepted the position and word began to get out. Since that announcement, Pittsburgh has also been named as the host of the 2019 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Championships.
“I’m really excited about it, really happy that it worked out the way it did and I’m able to go back to my alma mater,” Gavin said in the telephone interview.
Gavin went 33-0 while winning the national title at 174 pounds as a senior in the 2007-08 season, one year after reaching the finals, only to finish second in the nation.
This is the second straight year that Gavin will change coaching jobs. He had made the move from assistant at the University of Virginia, where he worked for three seasons, to an assistant’s role at the University of Oklahoma.
“It was a higher position at Oklahoma,” Gavin said. “The head coach at Oklahoma (Lou Rosselli), I had known for a while. He was my coach for international wrestling so that was a big draw for me as well.”
Taking his first head coaching assignment at Pittsburgh gives Gavin a head start.
“I think every coach fantasizes, at some point, about running his own program,” said Gavin, who finished eighth in school history with 120 wins. “Of course for me, with it being my alma mater, I’m probably more familiar with it than others who might be taking over a program.
“I already have some ideas, but I need to get out there, see what I can do and try to hit the ground running.”
Gavin continued wrestling competitively through the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, leaving him in position where he can work comfortably with his wrestlers on the mat, as needed.
“He has an exceptional wrestling pedigree and is one of the top dynamic coaches in the wrestling profession,” Pittsburgh director of athletics Heather Lyke said in a release announcing the hiring. “His passion and commitment to Pitt wrestling will enable our program to build on its rich tradition on and off the mat.
“We look forward to coach Gavin leading our program to the ACC Championship as well as continued success on the national stage.”
After graduating from Pitt in 2008, Gavin remained on the staff for a season as a coach before beginning a successful international freestyle wrestling career with the Lehigh Valley Athletic Club in Bethlehem a year later.
Gavin was runner-up in his weight class at the 2010 and 2014 U.S. World Team Trials and in 2011 in qualifying for the Pan-American Games. He competed with the U.S. National team, winning national freestyle titles in 2013 and 2014 and placing third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Pitt went 11-5 last season when it was ranked in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches top 25 poll the entire season. It had three Atlantic Coast Conference individual championships.