HALL OF FAME CLASS XII: Matthew Feast W’05
On Feast’s plaque: One of just two three-time NCAA All-Americans in Penn Wrestling history and an EIWA Hall of Famer, he was a four-time NCAA qualifier and won three EIWA titles at heavyweight. His 118 wins remain third all-time. A member of Penn’s 2002 Ivy League championship team, he earned three first-team All-Ivy selections during his career. He was a two-year captain, a three-time NWCA All-Academic selection, and a three-time Academic All-Ivy as well as a CoSIDA Academic All-District pick. As a senior, he was the 2004-05 recipient of the University’s Class of 1915 Award.
The Penn Athletics Hall of Fame Class XII induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 7 at The Inn at Penn.
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By Josh Verlin
A childhood move changed the course of Matthew Feast’s life.
When he was three years old, his father’s company relocated from Long Island to Cressona, Pennsylvania, moving the Feasts from just outside New York City to just outside Pottsville. Growing up an athlete in a town of 3,000 people meant Feast played all the typical sports: soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.
But rural Pennsylvania towns have one particular sport they’re known for, well beyond the Keystone State.
“There’s just good wrestling programs throughout Pennsylvania,” Feast said. “Even in the smallest towns, it was just accessible at a young age. My mom was like, ‘do you want to wrestle, or do you want to play basketball?’ She didn’t really push me, and I was like ‘I want to wrestle.'”
That childhood decision set Feast on a path that saw him reach the peak of high school wrestling, then turn that into a standout career on the mats at Penn.
A three-time All-America, three-time EIWA champion, three-time first-team All-Ivy and four-time NCAA qualifier, Feast is one of the inductees into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame Class XII.
That’s quite a long way from the 12-year-old who was “pretty bad” at the sport at the time, as Feast admits, but a wake-up call as he entered his teenage years was just the spark he needed. Seeing some of his friends starting to get into alcohol and other irresponsible behaviors for boys of that age, Feast decided one night at a house party that he wasn’t going to follow them.
“I just walked upstairs, I was thinking and pacing, I just looked in the mirror, and I said ‘I’m going to be a state champion wrestler,'” Feast recalled. “Understand, I was not good at the time I made that pact. I knew I had a lot of work to do, but if you say something and repeat it, you build confidence over time. I would try to look in the mirror every day, and after a year, the amount of confidence you have is 10x, maybe 100x.”
Feast spent his time working at Talon Wrestling Club in Bethlehem, where guys like Olympic gold medalist and wrestling Hall of Famer Bobby Weaver, Hall-of-Fame twins Rocky and Ricky Bonomo, and many other notable wrestlers honed their craft.
By the time he got to Blue Mountain High School, Feast had already grown to his 6-foot-2 frame, though he hadn’t quite filled out to the 220 pounds he’d wrestle at during his time at Penn. The future heavyweight didn’t qualify for the varsity team as a freshman, but state rules allowed him to wrestle at the middle school level, where he won the district title.
As a sophomore, he wound up in a wrestle-off to make the varsity team, another key moment in his wrestling journey. Feast won and got his first varsity experience; a loss, he says, “would have been a crushing blow.” After that sophomore season, a learning experience for sure, Feast started wrestling in some Greco-Roman tournaments which helped him diversify his abilities and better prepare for his final two years of high school.
Wrestling at 189 pounds as a junior, Feast qualified for the state wrestling tournament for the first time, winning the regional tournament and losing in the state semifinals by a point, coming in fourth place in the state. That was enough to grab the attention of Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina—himself a Class VI inductee into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame—and there was an immediate mutual interest.
“It was very good from the beginning,” Feast said. “He actually drove out to my house; I don’t remember what we ate but we enjoyed a great time together. (My family) drove to Penn a couple times, just walking around campus. He was the first real Division I coach that reached out to me, but shortly after that, the letters started pouring in.
“I was always biased in favor of Penn,” Feast added. “It was an hour from my house, Brandon Slay (W’98) had just won the Olympic gold medal, there were other studs on the team as well.”
That set the stage for a massive senior year at Blue Mountain. Feast went unbeaten through the regular season, then romped through the state tournament straight through to the final. He then left no doubt when he got there what the outcome would be.
“Took him down in three seconds,” Feast recalled. “I just had so much energy, ended up winning that match 10-5, it was very emotional for me, my parents were there, it was a big deal.
“It didn’t stop there. I kind of over-prepared; my original goal was just to win states, but I ended up winning Senior Nationals, which are basically high school nationals, and then I won the Greco-Roman and freestyle tournaments in Fargo.”
While Feast never reached that same pinnacle at the college level, his four years at Penn were some of the best the school has ever seen on the mats. His 118 victories are still third in the school’s record book; he’s fourth, eighth and ninth in falls in a season.
Injuries his senior year made it difficult for Feast to compete at the highest level possible, but he still placed in the national tournament. Unlike some of his teammates and friends, who went on to train for the Olympics or go into mixed martial arts, when his college career ended Feast knew his wrestling days were done.
“I think wrestling in college, it was a love-hate relationship—I’d say more love, but you have your moments,” he said. “There are some moments that I kind of wiped out of my memory because it’s just too painful, it’s tough to think about, you step the wrong way, grab somebody’s wrist the wrong way and you lose a match over something so small.
“The sum of it is it builds character and confidence; it gave me skills beyond the sport that I carry today. I strengthened my resolve to work hard at things that I committed to, whether it’s family or business. That’s what I took away from it.”
Upon graduation, Feast jumped right into a career in finance, working first for Moody’s for a couple of years before getting a job with Shinsei Bank, a Chinese bank, working in Japan for four years. It was there that he met his wife Mei Mei, who’s Chinese and was also working in Japan; they have two children together, Holly (10) and Max (7).
The Feast family moved back to the United States in 2011, and he spent nearly a decade with a French bank, Natixis, working in New York City. During the COVID pandemic he decided to make something of a pivot in his career, combining his knowledge of finance and real estate and getting into the crypto world with ValueChainVentures (VCV) Digital Group, where he’s one of the co-founders and president.
Though it’s been more than 15 years since Feast last wrestled, his athletic prowess still echoes back in his hometown. Pennsylvania is still churning out some of the best wrestlers in the world, and Feast is one of those legends who coaches and avid fans of the sport still point to as someone for younger generations to emulate.
“My high school has requested for me to give speeches at their annual banquet a few times,” he said. “It’s something that I will do, I just haven’t done it yet.
“One experience was interesting. There’s a Buca Di Beppo in the Lehigh Valley, the Italian restaurant chain. One time I went in with my wife and mom (and others), and they were like ‘oh, you’re Matt Feast, and it’s on the house.’
“We don’t get fans like basketball stars, but maybe we get a free meal every few years.”