Matt Lascola is a 29-year-old college athlete. That’s just one unusual aspect of his journey.
Lascola graduated from the no longer existent Langley High School in Pittsburgh in 2008. He then decided to attend Slippery Rock, but it didn’t work out as planned for him.
“I didn’t really pay attention in high school or get prepared for college and when I got there I was lost,” Lascola said. “I was struggling in class, so [I worried] about hanging out with my friends, going out, and partying. I was 18 years old and I wanted the college life.”
Amid mediocre grades and not enjoying the “college life” anymore, Lascola exited Slippery Rock and began sleeping on his mom’s couch and working overnight at Eat’n Park washing dishes. Lascola’s mother and grandfather wanted something different for him, and suggested he enlist in the Navy.
“My mom brought the idea up,” Lascola said. “My Grandfather was in the Navy and he supported it, I went to the recruiting office with my Mom, talked to the recruiter, and that’s how I got into the military.”
Lascola was at first scared of the military after enlisting while still a teenager, but soon learned to grow into a man.
“It was pretty intimidating,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect really just by seeing movies and things of bootcamp. “You’re scared heading into it.” Once you get the hang of bootcamp it’s pretty easy, you just have to pay attention, make sure you’re doing everything correctly, and have attention to detail.”
During his time in the Navy, Lascola stumbled upon a hobby that he took a lot of interest in: mixed martial arts.
“After I graduated boot camp I got stationed in Hawaii in Pearl Harbor,” he said. “I had a year left in the Navy. I knew I wanted to get back into wrestling. I was thinking why not start with Jiu Jitsu and I looked up all of the gyms on the island and found the best gym, instructors, people training there, and it became a family.”
Lascola had a remarkable amateur and professional career that lauded him the nickname ‘Matty Ice.’ Matty Ice never got a chance to live out his goal by becoming a big time UFC fighter. Money was one of the reasons that he had to move back to Pittsburgh. Injuries were another reason that he couldn’t live out his dream, and ultimately, he decided the beatings weren’t worth it anymore.
“I had to get a job, I couldn’t financially live in Hawaii anymore,” Lascola said. “I realized that it wasn’t worth taking the punches and kicks to the head. You have to be 100 percent truly dedicated to make it.”
After Lascola moved back to Pittsburgh, he took six months off to recover and give college, and wrestling, another chance. Lascola had lofty expectations for himself on and off the mat.
“I was 100 percent more prepared for college this time,” he said. “The military got me ready and made me grow up. I was really successful with MMA and I was expecting to come to college and to dominate against 18-year-old kids as a 27-year-old. My expectations were [to become a] national qualifier and All-American.”
Quickly, however, Lascola realized that college wrestling wouldn’t be as easy as he thought.
“That first year it was a huge wake up call and college wrestling is really different from MMA,” Lascola said. “I feel that college wrestling is 100 times harder.”
Now as a senior, Lascola, coming off a Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship, notices that the wear and tear of wrestling was having an effect on his body. He figured out that he needed to take ice baths, Ibuprofen, and electrolyte tablets to stay fresh. Even some of the younger guys on the team, joke around with Lascola about being an old man.
“[Freshmen] Jace Guy and Luke LaVanway asked if I wanted to play pickup basketball later,” Lascola said. “It was after practice so I was all tired and I said ‘No way, I’m so tired, I’m going home,’” They said ‘Oh so you can be in bed by 8, go home, watch the nightly news and jeopardy.’”
When Lascola graduates from Waynesburg, he is looking into working with the Steelers, which would be a dream for him, as he has tattoos to honor all three major Pittsburgh sports teams.
Head coach Ron Headlee acknowledged that the team and himself will miss Lascola next year.
“His personality tries to build everyone up and he looks for a positive in things and in everyone,” Headlee said. “He’s just a great leader for our guys.”