Last Updated: Tue Jan 17, 2023 - 2:58PM
When it comes to heavyweight wrestlers, very few in recent memory could match the success of Isaiah Vance. During his time at Hempfield Area, Vance captured a pair of WPIAL individual crowns. Now competing at the University of Pitt-Johnstown, Vance is nationally ranked for the Mountain Cats. Vance is in the limelight for the latest edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Vance wasted no time in establishing his dominance at Hempfield Area, as he compiled a record of 34-9 as a freshman heavyweight in 2017-18. After finishing third in Class AAA Section 1, Vance advanced to the WPIAL tournament, in which he also finished third. Vance consequently qualified for the PIAA competition, but did not place. Collectively, the Spartans won their first-round match against West Allegheny, but lost to Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament.
The next year, Vance improved his mark to 35-6. In the Section 1 tournament, he recorded a first-round fall against Norwin’s Zach Cypher to take first. For the second year in a row, Vance took third in the WPIAL tournament. Back in the state bracket, Vance notched a fourth-place showing. In the team tournament, the Spartans advanced past Chartiers Valley, but came up short against Waynesburg Central in the quarterfinals.
Vance reached new heights in 2019-20, as he compiled a record of 42-2. During that run, he repeated as the Class AAA Section 1 champion. This time, Vance also took first in the WPIAL tournament, as he bested Billy McChesney of Greensburg Salem 1-0 in the championship round. Vance came up just short of the final prize, as he finished runner up in the PIAA competition. In the team competition, the Spartans notched postseason victories against Chartiers Valley and Kiski Area, but lost to eventual champion Waynesburg Central in the semifinals.
As a senior in 2020-21, Vance posted a mark of 36-2. Although Vance finished as runner up to McChesney in the section tournament, he rebounded to defeat McChesney 1-0 in the WPIAL bracket, repeating as the district champion. In the state tournament, Vance placed third, finishing his storied career with the Spartans with a mark of 147-19.
Following his graduation, Vance elected to continue his career on the mat at the University of Pitt-Johnstown. He joined the Mountain Cats last season, earning a starting nod at 285 pounds. He posted a record of 5-4 before missing the rest of the season with injury. Collectively, UPJ went 13-1, including 6-1 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Mountain Cats took first in the NCAA DII Super Region I Tournament, and finished 12th in the NCAA DII National Championship.
In his sophomore campaign this year, Vance has posted a mark of 13-2, and is ranked fifth nationally. UPJ has been perfect, as the Mountain Cats are 9-0 overall, including 2-0 in PSAC action.
Isaiah took time away from the mat to answer questions about the challenges of overcoming his injury last year, his fondest memory from Hempfield Area, and which grappler he’d like to face.
Q: How have you evaluated your performance thus far this season?
A: I changed my workout routines to more endurance-type workouts and changed my diet. Doing these changes, I feel my performance on the mat has really improved.
Q: What has been the biggest area of improvement from your freshman season to this year?
A: My greatest improvement would probably be my endurance/stamina. I feel very confident I can go a full seven-minute match and more without feeling tired.
Q: How would you describe your wrestling style?
A: I would say my style is more of dominant-type style where I'm trying to maintain control the entire match, with a little bit of funkiness mixed in.
Q: You had last season cut short by injury. What were the biggest challenges of overcoming that setback?
A: Just maintaining my conditioning was my biggest concern when I got injured. Since it was a leg injury, I really was not able to run, so I had to come up with different alternatives to maintain and improve my conditioning.
Q: What team and individual goals did you set for the 22-23 season?
A: My goal this year is to help my teammates be the best they can be, and my individual goal for this year was to show people that I am capable of competing with the best competition out there.
Q: There are several other former WPIAL wrestlers on the Mountain Cats roster. Did you have a relationship with any of them before you began at UPJ?
A: I knew a bunch of the guys on the team before I came up to Pitt Johnstown, and for me personally, it made my team dynamic and relationship with them much better.
Q: What led to your decision to attend Pitt-Johnstown?
A: What led me to Pitt Johnstown was Coach Pecora and DJ Sims; they really got me on the path that led me to Pitt.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is education, and I would like to teach a middle school history class someday.
Q: What has been your most enjoyable college class?
A: My favorite class so far would have to be intro to educational psychology, because we got into a good bit of discussion in the class, and I really enjoyed it.
Q: What was your fondest memory at Hempfield?
A: My fondest memory is probably all the time the team would get together and hang out or just get workouts in. It was that bond we shared that made being at Hempfield a great experience altogether.
Q: Do you still follow the Spartans athletics and WPIAL wrestling?
A: I do still follow Hempfield wrestling and the WPIAL.
Q: If you could wrestle anyone past or present, who would you choose? What would be the outcome?
A: I probably say from the past would be Kawaun Deboe. The outcome is a little hard to predict - he is an outstanding wrestler/athlete, but knowing what I know now, I feel the match would be close and more fun.
Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?
A: To be honest, I don’t have one at the moment, but if I go back to younger me, it was Shakira.
Q: What is your favorite vacation spot, or a place you've always wanted to visit?
A: My favorite vacation spot is probably Virginia Beach because it holds the best memories of wrestling and family.