John Murray grew up 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and was recruited to play football and wrestle at Cornell University. He arrived at Cornell in the fall of 1974 having survived a near-death car accident that summer. Murray was elected captain of the Cornell wrestling teams in 1977 and 1978. He was awarded the Eric LaFrance “Tough Guy” Award and James Meldrim Award for Outstanding Character, Sportsmanship and Contribution to Cornell Wrestling following his junior season. He graduated from Cornell in 1978 with a degree in biology and later earned a Master’s degree in physical education at Ithaca College in 1983.
John took over as the Ithaca College wrestling coach in the fall of 1980, becoming the youngest head wrestling coach in the NCAA at 23 years old.
The program was at a crossroads when Athletic Director Bob Deming hired Murray as Ithaca’s eighth wrestling coach. Ithaca was 45-59-8 with only three winning records under four different coaches during the 70’s. There was serious talk about dropping the program before Deming offered Murray a part-time position earning only $3,500 per year. Within three years Murray began producing nationally contending teams and his position was soon elevated to full-time after his sixth season at the helm.
The Bomber mat men went on to win three NCAA Division III National Wrestling Championships and finished in the Top 15 twelve times in Murray’s fifteen years as coach. During his tenure, 27 wrestlers earned 50 All-American honors including 5 NCAA Division III National Champions.
When he retired from coaching following the 1994-95 season, Coach Murray had become the winningest wrestling coach in Ithaca College Wrestling’s 65-year history, sporting a record of 150-59-1 (.715). He was chosen as the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year in 1984, 1989 and 1994 and the New York State Coach of the Year in 1985, 1988 and 1994.
Since retiring Coach Murray has been recognized for his success by induction into the Cornell Distinguished Wrestling Alumni Hall of Fame, Ithaca College Athletic Hall of Fame, and both the New York State and NCAA Division III Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fames.
John started Advantage Sport & Fitness, a specialty fitness company, in his basement in 1987, and then left coaching in 1995 to devote his full time to Advantage along with his college roommate and equal business partner John Pfuntner. Since its inception twenty-nine years ago, Advantage has become one of the most successful distributors of commercial fitness equipment in North America. The company currently employs 70 people, and distributes fitness equipment in nine states including New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Murray has continued to maintain his connection to wrestling as a booster club member of both the Cornell University and Ithaca College wrestling programs. He also employs nine former collegiate wrestlers (most of whom were All-Americans and several of whom were National Champions) as sales representatives at Advantage.
Murray resides in Ithaca with his wife Kathy, who is also an Ithaca College graduate. They have three daughters, Candace and Christine – graduates of the University of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality (2006) and Caitlin – a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2008). In addition to his commitments to wrestling and Advantage, John and his wife Kathy have recently planted a church in downtown Ithaca, NY called Catalyst Vineyard Church.