Matt Azevedo enters his eighth season as head coach of Drexel Wrestling in 2018-19 after joining the Dragons in April of 2011 following successful coaching stints at Cornell and Cal Poly. Azevedo has led the program’s resurgence and ushered in a new era of Drexel Wrestling in the EIWA. He is the eighth head coach in the school’s history and replaced Jack Childs, who retired after 35 seasons at Drexel.
The Dragons have climbed onto the national scene and into the national rankings in each of the last two seasons. The Dragons earned their first USA Today/NWCA DI Coaches Poll national ranking under Azevedo and remained ranked in the Top 25 for six weeks during the 2016-17 season. The following year, the Dragons finished the 2017-18 regular season ranked in the top 25 of four separate polls – USA Today/NWCA DI Coaches, FloWrestling, Intermat tournament and Intermat dual – for the first time in program history.
On the mat, the Dragons have won 65 matches, including 10-win seasons in each of the last three years, under Azevedo’s guidance. In 2016-17, Drexel finished with 13 dual victories, its most since the 2006-07 season The Dragons have taken down ranked nationally ranked opponents in three straight seasons – No. 21 Rider, 18-14, in Feb. 2018; No. 25 Princeton in Dec. 2016; and No. 20 Northwestern, 21-20, in Nov. 2015. Drexel also dramatically came back to tie the overall score at 20-20 on a late third-period pin against No. 5 Lehigh in Dec. 2017, despite the Mountain Hawks winning on criteria. The Dragons also recorded major victories over Penn in 2016, their first since 1989, and against Hofstra in 2013, their first since 1997.
Azevedo has coached 24 Dragons to qualify for the NCAA Wrestling Championships in his first seven seasons at the helm. In 2018, the Dragons sent a program-best five wrestlers to Cleveland, Ohio for NCAAs. Austin DeSanto (133), Garett Hammond (157), Alex DeCiantis (184) and Stephen Loiseau (197) were all automatic qualifiers that year, while Austin Rose (174) earned an at-large bid.
Three Dragons have gone on to win three conference championships during Azevedo’s tenure. Matt Cimato took home the EIWA title at 149 pounds in 2016 the year after Kevin Devoy won the EIWA title at 133 pounds in 2015. In 2013, 197-pounder Brandon Palik became Drexel’s final CAA champion. The Dragons have seen the EIWA podium become commonplace over the last five years as 29 wrestlers have placed at the conference tournament. Most recently in 2018, Drexel placed a program-best seven wrestlers in the top eight, highlighted by third-place finishes by Zack Fuentes (125), Austin DeSanto (133), Garett Hammond (157) and Stephen Loiseau (197).
In the classroom, Drexel Wrestling has been a standout academic program in the nation. Drexel has finished as an NWCA DI Top 30 All-Academic Team for the fifth straight season. In 2018, the Dragons finished with their best team GPA yet (3.36), good for eighth best in the country. The Dragons have had nine NWCA Academic All-America individual selections during that time, including five in 2018 – Alex DeCiantis, Zack Fuentes, Garett Hammond, Ebed Jarrell and Stephen Loiseau. Fifteen wrestlers have earned EIWA All-Academic Team selections since the award began in 2016, including Alex DeCiantis, Zack Fuentes, Garett Hammond, Ebed Jarrell, Stephen Loiseau and Sean O’Malley most recently in 2018. Also, seven wrestlers have been named Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area At-Large Team selections, including in 2018 Garett Hammond, Ebed Jarrell and Stephen Loiseau.
While at Cornell, Azevedo helped the Big Red earn nine All-America honors, nine EIWA champions and seven Academic All-Americans. He also guided the team to back-to-back second-place finishes at the NCAA championships, which marked the best performance in school history. Prior to his time at Cornell, Azevedo spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly, where he coached seven All-Americans and eight Pac-10 champions. He also helped guide Cal Poly to its highest finish in school history at the Pac-10 championships by placing second in 2004 and 2006.
Azevedo wrestled collegiately at Arizona State and Iowa State, each for two seasons. He advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons. Azevedo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Iowa State in 2002. He continued his wrestling career after graduation and went on to be a seven-time U.S. National place winner, two-time U.S. National Team member and won the 2008 U.S. Open National Championship.
Azevedo, his wife, Brooke, and their sons, Judah and Roman, reside in Bryn Mawr, Pa.