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<B>From left to right, Mount Anthony Union High School seniors Jesse Webb, Rachel Hale, and Austin Price signed their commitments for wrestling in college on Wednesday night. Webb will attend Ohio University, Hale will attend King University, and Price will go to Anderson University. (Adam Samrov)</B>

BENNINGTON -- Making a college decision as a high school senior athlete can be an agonizing and lengthy decision, something that can weigh on the conscience throughout the season.

For three of the four seniors on the Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling team, that won't be a problem.

Rachel Hale, Austin Price and Jesse Webb all signed on the dotted line, making their college choices official on Wednesday night.

Hale, one of the top female wrestlers in the country, will attend King University in Tennessee. Price will join former Patriot Zak Hale at Division-II Anderson University in South Carolina, while Webb chose Division I Ohio University. All three earned full athletic scholarships.

"It's extremely exciting to be able to have them now know where they're going, they can focus more on studies and concentrate on wrestling from here on out," said Mount Anthony coach Scott Legacy. "That's important. It takes the pressure off a teenager in today's society."

After receiving hundreds of offers from colleges across the country, Webb -- ranked 8th in the country individually in USA Wrestling's pre-season poll -- chose the Mid-American Conference school in Athens, Ohio.

"It's awesome, it's something you look forward to all the way through and it's surreal when it happens," said Webb, who has more than 160 wins to his credit before his senior season.


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"It's awesome to know I had all these opportunities, the hard work ended up paying off as far as high school is concerned, but there's still a lot ahead."

Webb, who had been close to picking Iowa State and Binghamton said the decision came down to recruiting.

"I liked the coaches, the head coach [Joel Greenlee] is a heavyweight. "Just going there, seeing the nice facilities, I fit with the team. It just felt right."

Earning a full ride takes a burden not only off the athlete, but the parents as well. For Jon and Linda Hale, Mary and Perle Webb and Vern Price and Scarlet Watson, the worry of how to send their child to college is greatly abated.

"We're very proud of Jesse. We looked at a few colleges, but Ohio was the one that really fit," said Jesse's mother Mary Webb. "Ultimately, it was Jesse's decision. We're thankful, he has a twin brother going to college the following year. Relief of the financial burden is wonderful and he's worked really hard for it."

Hale, looking to be the first female in Vermont to reach 100 wins this winter, will go to King College, the top-ranked women's wrestling program in the country in the WCWA rankings. In the short history of the program, four King wrestlers have competed on the world team.

"It's really exciting," said Hale, who is leaning toward a major in business. "I wrestled at MAU, the best high school in New England, and now [I'm going to] the best women's [wrestling] college in the country. It'll be a transition from working hard here to working hard there."

Legacy said Hale has proved herself -- winning two Vermont championships against boys as a freshman and sophomore, along with numerous female-only events throughout the country.

"She's a tough kid, a wrestler," Legacy said. "She's proven a lot of people wrong along the way. Female wrestling is on the rise, it's equal in the Olympics and at the college level. It's exciting to see an athlete from here go to the best school in her sport."

Wednesday's signing was the second-most from one class in Legacy's quarter-century tenure with the Patriots. In 2002, five wrestlers went on to Division I schools, none were early signers, however.

Price, whose brother Ben wrestles for Division I Binghamton University, joins Zak Hale in South Carolina for the Trojans.

Last year, Price won a state title, placed at New Englands and at the national tournament in Virginia all while dealing with an injury he picked up earlier in the season.

"It's sick, I wrestle year-round and it's great not to worry about paying for college, doing something that you love," Price said. "I started wrestling because Ben started wrestling. To both [wrestle] in college is just unreal."

"Austin has worked extremely hard to put himself [in this position]," Legacy said. "It's the story of if you work hard and are persistent, things can happen."

The trio have wrestled together since middle school.

"It means a lot [to all sign Wednesday]," Jesse Webb said. "We always knew we could do great things, but it's finally happening, we've proven ourselves."

Of course, none of that success would be possible without their teammates in the wrestling room.

"They wouldn't have the opportunities without the rest of the team," Legacy said. "They have good teammates in the wrestling room, really pushing those guys. It's been a team effort. We've had a run of success going on right now, it's nice to be known on the national scene and the kids are able to make names for themselves."