Note: This is the second story in an ongoing, season-long series about the Mount Anthony wrestling team as the Patriots attempt to become the first program in the nation to win its 25th consecutive state championship. ADAM SAMROV
Some of the names are very familiar in Vermont and New England wrestling circles -- 4-time state champion Jeremiah Rogers and Mount Anthony's all-time winningest competitor Rob LaBrake, to cite just two.
Then there are ones not so familiar, wrestlers that may have competed for a single varsity season more than a generation ago.
But each one is linked in an important way -- they all put on the blue and white singlet for Mount Anthony.
While chasing their 25th straight state championship this season, last Friday's dual meet against Agawam, Mass., was alumni night for the Patriots. Dozens of former wrestlers and others that were part of the program's history returned, some from far away, many still in Bennington or close by. Each person had their names announced, along with their accolades at Mount Anthony, in a pre-match ceremony.
Those honored spanned from 1969 graduate Bruce Lackey, former coaches Armand Patnaude and Mike Powers, to recent graduates Zak Hale and Ben Price.
"It's good to see old faces, guys you wrestled with back in the day," said Bennington's Tighe Stratton, a member of the 1993-1996 state championship teams and an individual state champ in 1995 and 1996.
The event was put together by Rosalie Green, who is a photographer and nurse for the team. Green worked to get as many wrestling alumni to come back to MAU for the night.
"Rosie told us about it, to the alumni that still live in town," Stratton said. "And [coach] Scott [Legacy] is pretty good about keeping alums informed."
Many of the program's alums return not only to Bennington, but to volunteer their time as coaches at the school. Brett Parizo, a 1994 graduate, was part of the 1991-1994 state title teams, contributed to MAU's 1993 New England crown and had place finishes at both states and New Englands during his time wrestling at Mount Anthony.
Now, Parizo coaches the middle school teams, getting the younger wrestlers ready for the big-time of the varsity stage.
"It's amazing to see that many come back to share in the tradition," Parizo said. "I felt everyone was excited to be there."
Parizo credits Legacy's family approach to the program as a main reason why it continues to reload every single season.
"He is so focused on team and individual goals and getting everyone on the same page," said Parizo, who coaches the middle school team along with DJ Schaefer, another former state champ for Legacy.
Also, alumni are always welcome in the wrestling room, Parizo said.
"Anyone could come in and work out with the team," Parizo said. "Scott would tell a couple of stories to the kids, show what you had accomplished in your time. You're never looked over or put to the side."
One recent graduate, Zak Hale, has heard all the stories. And while he hasn't met many of the Mount Anthony wrestling alumni, he feels a special bond and connection with all of them.
"At MAU, we helped build something," said Hale, in his freshman season at Anderson University in South Carolina. "It's like a brotherhood that can't be broken."
Part of that brotherhood is taking the lumps from the older wrestlers.
"I give a lot of credit to the wrestlers before me, who made me a better wrestler," Stratton said. "You're motivated to be better."
And a lot of that motivation is plastered throughout the Mount Anthony wrestling room. A poster on the wall lists the names of the 100-win club in MAU history -- a lengthy one with nearly 70 names on it. Hale, a three-time Vermont champion and two-time New England place finisher, is second on that list with 213 victories.
"It's cool to be a part of [the program]," Hale said. "To anyone who wrestles here, being on that wall means something."