Friday February 8, 2013

ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

When the Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling team took the mat for Senior Night against Bishop Hendricken last Friday, a major part of the family was missing.

Rosalie Green, 74, became ill in the days before the match and was at the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation in Bennington when MAU beat the Hawks, 50-15. Considered the "team grandmother," she has been a fixture around the wrestling program for the past two decades, missing few matches.

She texted back and forth with people in attendance Friday night for updates on how the team was doing. But it pained her to not see her great-grandson Brandon Marcoux-Schaefer wrestle his final home match as an MAU senior.

What Green would have seen was Marcoux-Schaefer winning his match 8-0, his 39th victory of the season. After the event, she told Brandon she was sorry she couldn't be at the match.

"I told him [that] I wished I could have been there, I wish I was well enough to get down there and be down there," Green said on Wednesday while still at CLR.

"If I could have watched it somehow, from somewhere, I would have," Green said. "I wasn't up here willingly, I can tell you that."

* * *

Green has seen her share of senior nights. She started following the Mount Anthony wrestling team back in 1991. Her grandson DJ Schaefer, Brandon's father, was a junior and had only wrestled a couple of years for the Patriots.


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She became a huge supporter, going to every match that season, which Schaefer finished with a sixth-place showing at the state championships -- the fourth of the current run of 24 consecutive Vermont crowns for the Patriots.

"I think she got caught by what we call the wrestling bug," said Mount Anthony coach Scott Legacy.

"Rosie got more invested his junior year," he continued. "She said, ‘I can see what this is doing for DJ's life, I want to do anything I can do to help. I want to be involved.' That's where the relationship [took] off."

Heading into his senior season, Schaefer said he wanted to take his wrestling to the next level. So during the summer, he desired to attend wrestling camps in Iowa and Massachusetts with other teammates, but money was an issue.

"I was proud and wouldn't ask anyone for that," said Schaefer, now 38, and a middle school wrestling coach in the MAU program. "Coach Legacy knew I wanted to do things going into senior year, which was unheard of for someone wrestling only three years."

Seeing his ambition, Green decided to do everything she could to get the funding.

"We came up with fund-raising together and she knew enough people in her working world with local connections," Legacy said. "We did bottle drives a group of [wrestlers] went to Iowa and we did a ton of fund-raising. She was right in the middle of it."

And her initiative left Schaefer no excuses for his senior season.

"She didn't have a lot of money then or now. If she hadn't done that, I wonder where would I have been if she didn't take that excuse away," Schaefer said. "What would I have done?"

During the 1992-93 season, Schaefer's senior year, he won a state championship and was runner-up at New Englands, helping to lead the Patriots to the regional crown. Green -- and DJ's parents, Rick and Karen Green -- were there each step of the way, even helping secure sponsorships to send Schaefer to the freestyle nationals.

After his loss in the New England final, Schaefer said he drifted away from the sport for nearly a decade. But Green remained -- and became a major piece of the Mount Anthony wrestling support system.

Legacy said she took up a greater role on the fundraising committee, helped coordinate dinner-dances and "casino nights" with his wife, and even traveled with the team, taking photos.

"She became a mother hen ... [she] always seemed to have the Tylenol, Ben-Gay, that stuff ... she became a grandmother, mother of the team for [a number of] years," Legacy said.

* * *

In several ways, Green's role remains something of a coach off of the mat.

"She's always taking pictures, so you'll always have memories," said Brandon Marcoux-Schaefer. "She's there supporting us, win or lose."

"She knows this group, she sits down and talks with them and takes the time to know them as an individual and be a part of their lives," Legacy said.

Green said that the MAU wrestling program gives kids chances they might not have had otherwise.

"I could see a lot in the program and what it does for kids. It does a lot," she said. "It does amazing things. It builds [kids] physically to know if they can get through [that], they can do anything. And that's what they come back and tell you.

"It teaches you to grow up, and you grow up pretty fast in the program and it keeps you growing up as an adult," Green said.

This year's big project was the alumni night. For the Patriots' match against Agawam (Mass.) in December, Green served as the ringleader in an effort to bring back as many former wrestlers as possible for the night. More than 75 people, from the beginning of the program back in the 1960s to today, were in attendance.

"These kids don't know the ones from the first year [of the state championship streak] unless we point out a name on the wall," Legacy said. "She felt it was important to share the tradition with this group, to be a branch from the first year."

Green said she was shocked by the number of wrestlers who returned for the occasion.

"I was floored. I couldn't get a hold of a lot of them, but they were there," Green said. "It didn't surprise me though. It's a true brotherhood."

Twenty years later after Green's first Senior Night, the newest generation of MAU wrestlers -- and her own family -- made it through the ranks for the home finale. Marcoux-Schaefer happened to be the first second-generation wrestler for Legacy.

"When Brandon was a freshman, I told Scott that I was going to be pulling back [from the program] a little bit," Green said. "But Scott said, ‘You know who's sitting over in that chair?' and there's Brandon as the team did fundraising at Wal-Mart.

"So then he says, ‘I take it you're with us?' And I said, ‘You take it right."

Now, Green's goal is to get out of the hospital in time to travel to Vergennes for the state tournament on Feb. 22 to cheer on "her" Patriots.

"I can't wait. I text the kids all the time. You really get close to a certain group," Green said. "I'm looking forward to states."