Local Olympic wrestler Frank Molinaro has a new coaching job.

The Barnegat native and Southern Regional High School graduate was hired Monday as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech under new head coach Tony Robie.

Molinaro could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I am extremely excited to welcome Frank and his family (Blacksburg, Virginia)," Robie said in a statement. "Frank is a world-class wrestler coming off a run at last summer's Olympic Team Trial and the Rio games that inspired the wrestling world.

"His success and experience as a collegiate athlete and now on the international level will be a tremendous asset to our wrestlers. Competing, coaching and training at the top program in the nation has given Frank a unique perspective that will be very beneficial to our student-athletes."

Molinaro, 28, previously served as a volunteer assistant coach at his college alma mater, Penn State, while training for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He placed fifth in the 65-kilogram weight class in Rio de Janeiro, falling one victory short of earning a bronze medal.

Immediately after the Olympics, Molinaro indicated that he was going to continue his wrestling career. According to the Flo Wrestling web site, the Southeast Olympic Regional Training Center is located in Blacksburg.

"I still have a lot left," he told Trackwrestling.com last August. "I feel like I'm just beginning the sport. It's very enjoyable to me, and I'm very blessed to be doing this. I don't want to do anything else."

Molinaro, a married father of two sons, was a three-time state champion at Southern Regional and also won a NCAA championship at Penn State in 2012. He served as an assistant coach at Rutgers University for two seasons before returning to the Nittany Lions to help head coach Cael Sanderson while also training with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club for the Olympics.

He met his wife, Kera Molinaro, while coaching at Rutgers.

Kera was an assistant gymnastics coach for the Scarlet Knights and Frank had just took a position as a volunteer assistant for the wrestling team.

"We met almost by accident, " Kera said in a phone interview last summer. "I held the door open for him one day because he didn't have his swipe card (key). It turned out our offices were right next to each other, and we started talking a lot."

They were married three years ago and now have two sons, Kason (2) and Frank Jr., who was born Aug. 28 when Molinaro was in Brazil.

Molinaro's Olympic performance capped a long, difficult journey.

Although he won the U.S. Olympic Trials last year, he still had to compete in a pair of qualifying tournaments in Mongolia and Turkey, respectively. He originally fell short, but reached the Olympics when a Russian wrestler was disqualified for violating the policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

Molinaro credited his faith for helping him reach his goals.

"I had been trying to do things my way for a long time, " he told The Press before the Olympics. "I was leading a very self-fulfilling life. And last year (2015) was the first year that I didn't reach any milestones in wrestling. But there were a lot of events going on in my life, and I realized I had to change my priorities. Once I gave my life to Christ, once I put him No. 1 in my life, it freed me up to excel. Without my faith, I don't think I'd be going to the Olympics."

He entered the Olympics seeded 18th in his weight class, but wound up winning three matches before suffering a last-second loss in the semifinals.

Molinaro barely missed scoring a match-tying takedown in the final moments of his match against reigning world champion Frank Chamizo of Italy, dropping a 5-3 decision.

"It's really painful not to reach your goals, but it's more painful to fail quietly, and I don't think I did that, " he told trackwrestling.com after the match. "I wrestled really tough. I gave it my all."

Molinaro was among four local athletes to compete in the Rio Olympics.

Pleasantville High School graduate Nia Ali won a silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles. Wildwood Crest native and Wildwood Catholic High School graduate Joe Maloy placed 23rd and was the top American finisher in the men's triathlon. Mainland Regional High School grad and Linwood resident Sam Ojserkis was the coxswain in the men's eight boat that finished fourth.

Maloy announced his retirement from triathlon last month.

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Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 27th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

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