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To say Peter Ferrara has a lot on his plate would be a major understatement. On the wrestling mat, he has racked up a 15-9 record this season while taking over the starting position in the 149-pound weight class. But this senior is a lot more than just wrestling. He also serves on Student-Athlete Mentoring Program, is an Academic All-ACC honoree and will attend medical school at either Penn State or Thomas Jefferson University this fall.

What is your style of wrestling?
: I think you can attribute most kids’ style of wrestling to where they have come from and how they developed. When I was a first year, I had a lot of problems with my right knee, so on the right leg lead, I couldn’t shoot on it. Because of that, I was forced to use my left leg, so my style has become kind of ambidextrous which I guess is kind of confusing for opponents. It’s more of a slick style now. I don’t really go after kids and move them around much. I watch them and move off their styles or movements. I watch how they lead and how they step and then work off that.

Does that mean you do a lot of thinking while you are on the mat?
That’s my problem sometimes I do too much thinking. It’s not as much thinking as much as it is instinct.

You started at Virginia as a 141-pounder and have since moved up to 149.
I was a light 141 pounds, and even today I am a light 149 pounds. The kids that I was wrestling were just throwing me around. Over the summer I tried to lift a lot and get bigger and I’m just a lean person no matter what, so it was really tough for me to get back to 141 after that. I ended up dropping all the way back to 141 and it was tough to get there and I just did not wrestle well. So much of wrestling is being able to balance the weight cutting with the performance. Some people can weight cut and lose a lot of weight and still wrestle well, but I can’t. It just doesn’t work out well for me.

Tell us about your match last week. It was a big win for you in avenging an earlier loss this season to Old Dominion’s Kaylen Baxter.
It was a big win. I wrestled him at the Michigan State Open and it was a close match then. I think he won by one takedown at the end. It was a tough match, and he’s a big kid. It’s always great to avenge a loss. I didn’t really think of it too much. I just went out and wrestled the way I am capable. I’m learning not to think too much I just have to go out there and do it.

As a senior, where have you come over the last four years as a wrestler?
One of the biggest things where I’ve seen a change is just all-out confidence. When I first came in here, I was not a recruit. I was a step up from a walk-on. I was a non-scholarship recruit. They couldn’t help me get into the school I had to get in on my own. Needless to say, I got my butt kicked the first half of the year. It was a shock because I was a relatively good wrestler in high school I got sixth in the state and I came in here and I was wrestling state champs and kids that had wrestled all year round their whole lives. I played lacrosse in high school and did other sports and I didn’t wrestle freestyle. It was very intimidating when I first came in here when you’re not only in your first year, but everybody else is better than you or seems like they’re better than you. Over the years, you beat a kid and coach tells you how good he was in high school and you realize that high school doesn’t matter anymore. When I was in high school, I never thought I was going to be a Division I wrestler. To be here now and starting, it just goes to show that you may not think you can do something, but if you push yourself and challenge yourself, you will be amazed what you can do.

How has your style of wrestling changed?
Overall, my whole style has changed. There are many things I did in high school where just because I was quick enough to do it, it would work. Here it didn’t work. I have become much better at hand fighting and I’ve become much better on top. You look at Coach Garland you can take him down, but you can’t get out. If he takes you down, you can’t get out. He’ll ride hard on top. I think I’ve developed myself as a top wrestler and on my feet. I was always nervous in high school being on my feet. If I were most comfortable, I would be on top. I would never let anybody up. Now, I feel comfortable on my feet. That is really important because you could spend a whole match on your feet or you could spend a whole match on bottom. It all starts on your feet and it’s by far the most important position. I’m much more well-rounded as a wrestler.

How has the UVa wrestling program evolved during your four years here?
When I was a freshman coming in, there was only one senior on the team and probably eight kids quit that first year. We had a lot of recruits come in that couldn’t hang and we had some upperclassmen that couldn’t hang. There was nobody to really look up to as a freshman. It means so much that our senior class is much better role models for the younger kids and with guys like Chris Henrich you can see it because he came in here and saw where the program was going and looked up to the older kids and then was able to become a role model himself. A good program is something that takes its talent and makes use of it and not only do we have that talent, but we are using it to its full potential.

You have helped lay the groundwork for the success of this program. That has to be pretty special for you.
When Coach Garland got here, he brought a whole new mindset in the program. There is so much potential on this team now. I’m sad to leave, but at the same time, we have the alumni network here and I’m going to want to come back to our matches. I can say that I was there when we were taking our first steps to becoming a national powerhouse. I’m going to be glad to come back when we’re wrestling the top-ranked teams, and hopefully when I come back, we’ll be beating those teams and we’ll be the guys that other programs are looking to beat. It’s a great feeling to be a part of something like that. When I was in high school, my team was so bad. It’s so different when you’re a part of team that really cares and has high expectations for itself.

What has been your most positive experience at UVa?
One of the things that has stood out for me here was becoming part of the Student-Athlete Mentoring Program. In high school and even just starting to be a part of SAMs, I just wanted to do it to put on my resume. But through that, I found out more about the university and about how much the athletes care. The apex of that is I was lucky enough to get nominated to go to the Student-Athlete Leadership Development Conference in Florida at Disney World.

I came into SAMS thinking I would put it on my transcript and it will help me get into med school and I came out really appreciating what they do and learning that as an athlete, I’m put on a pedestal in the community. The opportunities that you have when you’re in that position are endless. Your duties in that position are much greater than just an average person.

What does the SAMs program do?
The SAMS is the way the student-athletes connect with not only with themselves, but to the regular students and the community as a whole. We perform a lot of community service. We get the athletic name out there. We have a lot of programs, like Shootout for Cancer, which is a fundraising event where we get the community together and raise money for the children’s hospital. We’re also in charge of mentoring the athletes and helping them adjust not only to college athletics, but to college social life and academics.

Tell us about this weekend your last home matches.
It’s sad in that it’s the end of an era. I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old. My dad wrestled, my older brother wrestled, my younger brothers wrestle and my uncle wrestled here. For me, it’s the end of an era a 16- or 17-year era of my life. Wrestling has been such a big part of my life. It would be so much different if I wasn’t starting now because my mind would be off somewhere else. At the same time, I’m grateful that I’m here and it’s an exciting time. I’ve never really had the opportunity to wrestle a big match in college. To be able to say to friends, this is my last home match and I’m starting, is great I haven’t really had that feeling since high school. Wrestling isn’t really something you do for the glory, but I’m just blessed to be able to have this opportunity. I’m grateful that I’m here and contributing to the team, but that makes it so much harder to leave.

But after all my years of wrestling, I’m ready for it to be over. My body hurts I have acute injuries, but I’m also tired and sore. I’m older than most of these guys, so getting up in the morning, I really feel it. I’m ready to leave but my job isn’t over yet.

You are headed off to medical school next year. Talk about taking that big step in your life.
I’ve heard that after wrestling, everything else is easy. If I can go for an hour match with one of our coaches, hopefully sitting down and studying for eight hours straight in med school won’t be that hard. It definitely is going to be difficult changing up my lifestyle and not being able to work out every day. Since I have been here, my parents made sure I understood that wrestling is going to be over after college and I’m not going to make a living wrestling. It will be scary because it is med school, and I’ve heard some horror stories. But it’s a means to an end. My dad is a doctor as well, and he always says medical school is the most exciting time of your life.’ Even though it’s going to be hard, to be actually doing what I want to do and what I’m pretty sure I’m going to love doing, that is going to be exciting.

Do you know what field you want to get into?
I’m really interested in pediatrics. Obviously being a sports medicine major an athlete, being a sports medicine doctor or an orthopedic surgeon are definitely intriguing. But I’ve got two years to decide. I’m like a leaf blowing in the wind whatever happens, you have to just accept it, good or bad, and make the best out of it. If I’m led into one direction or even if I go to med school and it doesn’t turn out to be the right place for me, then I will deal with it and make my bones somewhere else.

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