Coming Home

Steve Santia Returns To His Spartan Roots
Steve Santia in his wrestling room
Steve Santia in his wrestling room
Malea Nadeo

“I felt I was on cloud nine that day, and it took me almost a year to come down from that high”. That day was March 10, 2007. That “high” was Steve Santia becaming a part of Hempfield sports history by bringing home a state wrestling title.

Nearly 17 years after becoming only the second heavyweight wrestling champion in Hempfield history, Steve Santia is back for more. His goals are big, and his confidence is clear. He tells the team to have faith in him and that he is going to put them in the right direction.

Thrilled with the opportunity to “come home” to the town and the school he grew up in, Santia is living out a dream.  “When it’s your alma mater and you came through the same system, every coach desires that. It’s just if you had the opportunity or not.”

Santia’s wrestling career could be described as “a roller coaster.” He remarks that he “slid under the radar” through his years of high school. He “was in the mix” but didn’t end up at the state tournament until his senior year. Santia didn’t wrestle at the middle school level. He says, “I think that separated me from other people. Guys who wrestle for 10–15 years sometimes don’t even see the state tournament. I was lucky enough to actually bring a title home, and I’ve just been blessed in a sense.”

Regarding individuals, Santia says, “There’s been state champions through this program for years now. So that’s the main goal—the state championships individually.” He wants the team to chase not only the state title together, but also the WPIAL championship.

Even though he considers individual athletes, Santia also is concerned for the program itself. He thinks goals aren’t always about wrestling and he wishes this program could hopefully also be “turning these young kids into men and getting them ready for life.” However, he wants high goals within the established program. Santia’s standard is going to the state tournament as a team, and he wants the team to get back there every year.

Santia has been coaching wrestling at the high school level since 2012, and he calls it “a process” to get where he is now. He is stepping into the shoes of his former coach, Vince DeAugustine. DeAugustine (himself a two time Spartan State Champion) says, “It’s a proud moment for any coach to have a former athlete get into coaching and give back. The fact that Steve is able to take the reins from me at Hempfield makes it even more special.” He admires Santia’s work ethic and determination “to continue producing champions on and off the mat.”

DeAugustine claims Santia provided him with “one of the greatest coaching experiences” in his 18 years. Santia’s determination carried him to winning his state title in 2007, considering it was his one and only tournament. DeAugustine calls Santia’s title “a testament to his athleticism and work ethic.”

According to Santia his experiences both on and off the mat have, “prepared him for his return to Hempfield.” As Santia simply puts it, “I was a part of something very special in Hempfield wrestling the day I won a state title. I’d like to think that on that day coach”D” and I began a sort of restart to the program. Now, it’s all about getting that tradition back. I am ready!”

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