For the past three years, the Exeter Township Senior High School Wrestling team has been rather successful. The team earned a spot in the PIAA State Tournament each of the past two years, but was unable to bring home a win. This year, coming off of a county team victory and six individual county victories, the team had a third opportunity to win a match at the state level, something no wrestling team from Exeter has ever done.
On February 8th, fans packed the Exeter High School Gymnasium for a match against Downingtown East, all hoping for the chance to witness history.
The wrestling team gave them what they were waiting for. The Eagles won the match 51-15.
The match, which was expected to be tight, turned out to be one-sided with Exeter winning 11 of 14 bouts, including a run of 8 consecutive bouts after losing the first bout. Downingtown won 2 of the final three bouts, but by then it was too late.
As Exeter Athletic Director Thomas Legath pointed out, the amount of success the wrestling team has had is surprising to almost everyone, except, perhaps, the wrestlers and coaches.
“Anytime you accomplish something for the first time it’s surprising. But also, when you see how hard these kids worked and trained in the off-season, you can now kind of appreciate that they expected this. And the way their coaches worked them, they expected it,” Legath said.
This winning mentality, this expectation to win, has been brought to the program by Coach John Rugg, who has managed to make Exeter’s wrestling program a program to respect. Legath said that everything begins at the top, and with the wrestling team that means everything begins with the coaching staff.
“With our wrestling program it starts with Coach Rugg, and he, and his coaching staff which is probably about 8 people, work and train these kids very tough every day, and all that hard work, in this case, when you say hard work pays off it did for the Exeter Wrestling team,” Legath said.
Legath continued to point out that the team works so hard, the competition in matches is almost easier than the practices. The team trains for success, and they found it with this victory.
The Eagles made history with the match, and brought their school the state-level victory they had been fighting for. Exeter lost the next two matches in the double-elimination tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, but for their fans the triumph at home was the victory they had been waiting for.
As the team continues to showcase its talent and determination to succeed, next year the Eagles may be fighting for a State Championship instead of merely a state-level win.