When Scott Legacy left Mount Anthony Union High School five years ago to come to Castleton University to jump start the wrestling program, he set out big goals for the program, which are beginning to be achieved.
“We just entered our fifth season as a program on campus. We started from the ground up and right from the beginning our goal was to put Castleton University and Castleton wrestling on a national map,” the head coach said.
That goal Legacy set out to establish five years ago is starting to become reality as the wrestling team has come out on top against two nationally ranked teams earlier this year.
On Feb. 10 in New Jersey, the team faced 11th ranked Stevens and won by a team score of 27-18. Then, only 10 days later, the team came out victorious against the 13th ranked College of New Jersey 21-17.
“We’re proud of the fact that we have been able to go and take on a couple nationally rank teams and come out on top,” Legacy said.
As team success continues to happen, individuals are getting some national attention too, with four wrestlers ranked in the top 25 in their respective weight class nationally.
Senior Max Tempel leads the way as the fifth ranked 157 pound wrestler in the country, according InterMat and Flo Wrestling. He is the sixth ranked 157 pounder, according to d3wrestle.com.
Along with Tempel, Michael Gonyea is listed as the 11th 133 pounder according to FloWrestling. Frank Darwark and Michael Angers are both listed in the top 20 in their respective weight class as well.
“It feels good to be ranked, especially after not wrestling at all last season. I worked hard over the summer working on different areas of my wrestling to help me achieve my goals and to help achieve the goals we have for this team,” Gonyea said.
The individual success has been followed by team success as well
“It’s cool to be honored by division three wrestling and recognized. All of our hard work is paying off and other teams are starting to see what we have built in the last five years,” Tempel said.
Legacy pointed to culture and his athletes buying in as a main component in creating a very competitive wrestling team.
“The guys have bought in, they work hard, and they buy into the philosophy we are presenting as a coaching staff,” Legacy said.
The team does a lot of team chemistry activities not related to wrestling to get to know each other. Legacy emphasized that the athletes not only know a lot about their teammates but also their teammates’ families towards the end of the season.
“We talk about culture all the time. We do a lot of things around mindset,” Legacy said.
The team has a saying that they live by every day called “get get and not to get got.”
“It’s about every guy working hard and having that same goal to be a national champion. It takes all of us, you can’t build a program with just a few guys with that mentality,” Tempel explained.
That mentality goes beyond just the mat and into every aspect of life for the wrestling team.
But Legacy acknowledged that a culture is not instilled into a team without the athletes themselves believing in it, which is a testament to his wrestlers.
“You get individuals like the Max Tempels and the Gonyeas and those kind of people in and I’m surrounded by a great coaching staff and we have a very supportive administration here with Deanna; when you put all those things in a blender and mix it up we are having the type of success we have right now,” Legacy said.
Legacy’s team chemistry emphasis has instilled a mindset in his players that has led to continued success.
“We go to practice every day with the mentality to work hard and focus on getting better. You need to believe in yourself and believe in your training when it comes time to compete,” Gonyea said.
Coaching this year has been an experience that could not be prepared for as a coach because of all the added aspects of COVID-19 that adds to the list of things a coach has to worry about, Legacy said.
“It definitely has had a high level of stress as a coach,” he said.
The team must get tested three times a week to compete with teams outside of Vermont and most of the time the test results take a day to process and come back.
“COVID has also impacted our schedule, with matches getting cancelled and rescheduling that match and then trying to find a new school to wrestle so we can get as much competition in as possible,” Gonyea said.
Legacy pointed to the testing as a stressor by having to go to bed some nights not knowing if an athlete or coach tests positive and always having the possibility of dealing with COVID-19.
“It’s about constant reminders because everyone has different beliefs about COVID and especially younger people, to get them to buy into what is being asked of you so we can compete without incident,” Legacy said.
The wrestling team has not had any team related COVID-19 issues since athletes arrived back on campus in January which, he credits his athletes for listening to the protocols.
“It takes every single guy making those sacrifices. Not exposing themselves, thinking more about the team than the individual and doing those right things have allowed us to be able to compete against other teams,” Tempel said.
Even with all those sacrifices, the team just got news that they will not be able to compete in the National Wrestling Coaches Association championships in Iowa on March 12-13.
The NCAA had already cancelled the wrestling national championships back on Feb. 3 and getting this news, Legacy described it as heartbreaking.
“Due to the state’s COVID restrictions, we are not going to be allowed to compete,” he said.
The wrestling team is set to compete in three more matches this winter. You can catch the team when they go up against New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire on March 6 streaming live on castletonsports.com.