Former state champ created United Training Facility for rural youth in PA

Updated: January 24, 2024

Photo: These are just some of the young wrestlers who train with Dave Patrick (back row, right) and other coaches in Ulster, Pa.

By Pat McDonald

On a snowy Sunday in northern Pennsylvania, more than 30 wrestlers made the short drive to Ulster, a town of about 1,200 people in rural Bradford County.

Ulster features a convenience store, hardware store and a diner. For the past few decades, that was pretty much the extent of the town that covers just under 20 square miles.

That changed last spring when former Pennsylvania state champion Dave Patrick decided to bring something new to this small town: the United Training Facility.

The Northern Tier League (NTL) has a storied history when it comes to the sport of wrestling. Over the decades, the region has produced a long list of state champions and other standouts who went on to make noise at the college level. One thing the area has been lacking was a place for wrestlers to train outside of their high school room. That is until now with the UTF offering training possibilities for a large range of age groups in this area.

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“We traveled a little bit last year, doing the club, and it’s a long way to go. Most people can’t afford to go or get away,” said Patrick, a state champ for Wyalusing High School in 1999. “After my son (Cole) made states this (past) year and just seeing all the way through with the NTL struggling at districts and regionals, that was a big thing. I’ve got three boys and I want to make sure they have something (training opportunities) and everybody else (in the area) does, too.”

Patrick turned to some wrestling legends from the NTL to help him as he opened the facility. Former Wyalusing state champ and Penn State wrestler Creighton Edsell, Troy state champ and current Lehigh University wrestler Sheldon Seymour, Athens state champ and 2023 Division III national qualifier Gavin Bradley and former Div. III champ Garrett Wesneski from Canton have all donated their time to help young wrestlers from the area they grew up in.

“Obviously going to Penn State, a lot of people like my knowledge and what I can give back to the community,” said Edsell, who understands the struggle of not having a training center near your hometown. When he was growing up, he would make the long drive to Bucknell University to train — both during the high school season and in the offseason.

“That was basically the closest thing unless I wanted to go to the Cornell RTC. I had to make it work. Now, it’s kind of nice for these guys where they can be right here in their backyard,” Edsell said.

Seymour traveled to Wyoming Seminary nearly two hours away to train when he was in high school.

“Having a place like UTF is great for our area. It is awesome to see the schools coming together and being able to train and help each other get better. Having this (facility) to get different partners than what you normally do, and to get a different feel from a person will help down the road in postseason — and just help make you a better wrestler,” said Seymour.

It’s not just past NTL standouts who have been working as coaches at UTF. Former two-time PIAA champ and two-time Division I All-American Andy Rendos and former three-time Wisconsin state champ and two-time Division I All-American Matt Pell, who now coach together at Wellsboro High School, have been regulars in the room.

“Having UTF close to the NTL is very important to local wrestlers in the area. Looking across the state of Pennsylvania, there are so many clubs and training facilities that offer high-level instruction to athletes,” said Rendos. “Clubs like Buffalo Valley, M2 and others are seeing their wrestlers have tremendous success. That is one thing this area has been lacking because one of the closest clubs is Buffalo Valley and some athletes don’t want to travel that far — whereas now we can offer quality instruction in their backyard.”

Another goal for Patrick was to get college coaches to come to Bradford County to teach area wrestlers and build relationships that could prove beneficial in the future. Bloomsburg coach Marcus Gordon, Bucknell coach Dan Wirnsberger and Clarion coach Keith Ferraro all made the trip to the facility this past summer.

“I want to use it as (a place) where the kids get access to great clinicians. We’re having college coaches come up so they can start interacting with kids and give those kids opportunities,” said Patrick.

“Having college coaches and athletes coming in is awesome for the wrestlers. It allows for them to both learn from a different perspective and have them get seen by the colleges even at a young age,” Seymour said. “Everyone has a different style of training or a different way of doing the same move so it is always interesting to see how someone else does it.”

Patrick has been happy with the early success the United Training Facility has had, and he is looking to continue to build something special that will be helping wrestlers succeed on and off the mat for years to come.

“It really is just creating a culture. I told kids we’re not here just to wrestle more. More wrestling is not necessarily the key element to success,” Patrick said. “I told them, ‘You guys are going to meet people who have different levels and degrees of success. You are going to learn mindset. You’re going to learn what we as coaches and other (successful) people do, what they believe and what it means to be a wrestler. That means in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in the wrestling room … so there’s a lot of things we want to implement and instill in them here.”

(Pat McDonald has covered wrestling for more than 20 years in Pennsylvania, New York and Maine. In that time, he has won awards from the Pennsylvania News Media Association, New York News Publishers Association and the Maine Press Association.) n