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Patrick Welch '85: A National Treasure

A "National Treasure". That's how Patrick Welch '85, the Chief ESG & Ratings Policy Officer at Kroll Bond Rating, describes Cornell wrestling. "When I was on the team back in the 80s, the support, the network, and the brotherhood was strong," he said. "It was amazing to be part of the family. I felt really good about the academics and support of the program that helped me have success then and now those things have gotten way stronger. I can't imagine anyone inclined academically who wouldn't relish the opportunity to be part of something so unique." Welch was inclined academically, and although he wasn't sure what he wanted to pursue when he arrived, he soon found his interests in business and finance. On the mat, he had a truncated freshman year of less than 10 bouts, as he dealt with injuries and an adjustment from his weight class his senior year of high school (126) and a growth spurt that put him at 150 pounds as a college freshman. As a sophomore, he quickly realized that he could compete with anyone in the country. At the New York State Intercollegiate Championships in January, Welch earned the title at 150 by defeating Ron Winnie, a Division III national champ who was also a Division I All-American. "That was a breakthrough moment for me," Welch said. "I was healthy, I had my footing as a wrestler - I was no longer a 126-pounder wrestling 150. I saw that I could compete physically and everything for me transformed mentally." Welch continued on to a career that landed him in the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame. He was a two-time EIWA champion and three-time placer who went 73-12 as a two-year captain. The three-time first team All-Ivy performer also made the NCAA tournament twice. Like most high-level wrestlers, Welch said he remembers each of his losses vividly. The last match of his college career is no exception. Seeded fourth at Nationals, Welch was tied at 3 with Scott Turner (a future NCAA champion) after regulation. The two were still deadlocked after overtime and at the time the winner was not determined with additional wrestling. The two competitors were compared on a set of criteria, and on the fifth or sixth, Turner was declared the victor. In order for Welch to be pulled back into the event, Turner had to make the semifinals. He didn't. An injury in overtime of his next bout ended Turner's run - and completed Welch's outstanding tenure in a Cornell singlet. "It was an unfortunate ending," Welch said. "I think about it all the time. I put so much into wrestling mentally and physically - it was just a crushing way to end. Both rules were changed within a few years - overtime wasn't decided on criteria anymore and everyone got to go to the wrestlebacks. But not soon enough for me." The many triumphs Welch experienced in wrestling continued into his professional life. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Welch stayed in Ithaca and got his MBA from Cornell. He found out about a job opening at Security Pacific Bank in California from a former Big Red wrestling teammate and began a new chapter. However, in some time, he wanted to be back on the East Coast with his future wife, a fellow Cornellian, and moved back to New York where he worked at bond rating agency Standard and Poor's. After about seven years, Goldman Sachs recruited Welch for its Risk Management group, where he excelled for nearly 20 years. More than five years ago, Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA), a competitor of Moody's and Standard and Poor's in the credit rating business, hired Welch as Chief Credit Officer. He's now added new responsibilities as the leader of the firm's ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) efforts. Welch explains that these efforts look not just at the value of company but also the impact that company is making on the world in categories across the ESG when offering a credit opinion. Welch looks at the value of his Cornell experience through a wider lens as well. "I'll never forget what [Cornell alum] John Lindseth asked me when I worked for him during a summer. He asked, "Why can't we be star students and star athletes?" Cornell can deliver on that in wrestling. You can be great in both. I don't think you can to the same extent anywhere else. But it's more than that. You don't go to Cornell wrestling just because you'll get a great job. You don't go to Cornell wrestling just because you can become a champion. It's the combination - the idea that Cornell gives you the opportunity to be profoundly great at multiple things. When you go through that process, you realize that you can be super successful in your career and also deeply vested in things outside your work. It's the well roundedness that's so crucial. You can balance your life, with your family, while still killing it at your job. I love that about Cornell and Cornell wrestling." It's just one of the reasons Patrick Welch labels Cornell wrestling a "National Treasure".

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