A. C. Cain

Finding the major stories in the minor leagues

Tag: Exeter Wrestling

Exeter Wrestling Makes History with State Win


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.

Exeter’s athletic success causes the community to pay attention

On January 29th the Exeter Eagles defeated the Wilson Bulldogs to win the school’s first County Wrestling title. For a school that, until recently, was never known for its athletics, the maiden championship seems to be a symbol of the school’s recent successes. As far as Exeter is concerned, winning is certainly contagious.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle. Photo: Ariane Cain.

In 2014 the girl’s tennis team won the schools first district title in the sport, and repeated as District III champions in October.

The football team won the Berks County Championship, and hosted the school’s first home district playoff game in November.

In the past few years Exeter has begun to emerge as an athletic threat, and the effects are being felt throughout the entire community.

William Cain has been the principal at Exeter Township Senior High School for five years, after joining the district as an assistant principal in 2007. He has had a front row seat for the athletic transformation. In his first two years at the school the football team had a 1-19 record.

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school's athletic accomplishments. Photo by Ariane Cain

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school’s athletic accomplishments.
Photo: Ariane Cain

“It’s really amazing when you look at it,” Cain said. “What the tennis team has done, and the football team, and now the wrestling team. It’s great.”

According to the 2010 US Census, Exeter Township has a population of 25,550. It is a large community, and boasts the 4th largest school district in Berks County. Exeter Township Senior High School has just over 1,400 students, with a senior class of 388 students according to the 2015-2016 school profile.

Exeter Township School District Athletic Program supports 14 different sports and boasts 67 different teams within these 14 sports. According to the 2014-2015 Interscholastic Title IX Disclosure Form, the high school alone has 757 student athletes.

These student athletes have recently brought their community together to support the athletic program and the schools.

Now when one drives down Rt. 422, the central road in Exeter, signs of the school district’s presence are everywhere.

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo by Ariane Cain

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo: Ariane Cain

The electronic sign outside of the local Dairy Queen boasts of recent athletic accomplishments and honors specific student athletes each week. Every team that wins a championship is honored on the Dairy Queen sign, as well as specific athletes being honored each week. The restaurant’s owner, Hamid Chaundry, donated a new video scoreboard for Exeter’s Don Thomas Stadium over the summer.

The local Giant grocery store has a spirit wear display, where it offers Exeter Eagles merchandise alongside Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies merchandise. With the recent rise in success, the community of Exeter has found new home teams to rally behind.

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear. Photo by Ariane Cain

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear.
Photo: Ariane Cain

Abigail Rutt, Exeter’s girl’s tennis assistant coach and an Exeter alumna, has noticed the impact the athletic success has had on both the community and the students.

“It gives them a sense of belonging, of being part of something,” Rutt said. “For all of them it provides a shared experience that gives them a connection to each other, to the school community, to the athletic community, the list goes on.”

The Reading Fightin’ Phils have hosted “Exeter Night” for the past two seasons, and will again this coming season, to recognize the school’s athletic accomplishments. Residents are offered free tickets, and it has become one of the busiest nights each season.

“It has even been more unifying within the school community,” Cain said. “It has brought together all different groups to support each other and share the success.”

This past season, for the first time, the high school had to pre-sell football tickets in order to eliminate a backup at the gates on game night. The athletic program’s recent successes have given the community something to brag about, and all of Exeter Township intends to make the most of it.

© 2017 A. C. Cain

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