Let me get right to the point.

There should be a statue erected in Bennington for Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling coach Scott Legacy.

A big one. In a location that everyone who comes to town can see.

Why?

Because he is someone that has made a tangible difference in the lives of Bennington's kids.

Legacy and his coaching staff provide their wrestlers with a means to make it in this world. Not just on a wrestling mat, but inside the classroom and life.

Lessons on dedication, on hard work and determination. Lessons on overcoming adversity, overcoming defeat and becoming a stronger person. Lessons on becoming a man -- or a woman.

Thursday's article in the New York Times about the heroin problem in our town opened up eyes and brought out a ton of community feedback. I think it is safe to say that we all want to see this community thrive.

And in the wrestling program, we have one avenue to give the kids in this community -- the lifeblood of Bennington -- hope.

What are the answers to solving the drug crisis? No one knows for certain, but two things that certainly help are hope and opportunity.

The wrestlers at MAU are given a chance, via the mat, to get ahead in the world. To get into schools that might otherwise be outside their reach. To further their education so that one day they can give back to the community that supports them.


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Wrestling provides an outlet for anyone who wants to do something to better themselves.

All Legacy asks for is their commitment.

It doesn't matter if someone is big, small, square, round, athletic or out of shape. If someone is willing to put in the time, Legacy and his staff will do everything they can to help the athlete succeed. It's all we can ask for. Some might not grab at the opportunity that Legacy and the team presents, but the fact that the opportunity is there means something. Year in and year out, MAU wrestling provides an opportunity for those that want to learn, and want to work hard, to do something rewarding and positive.

Seeing things like Jesse Webb get into Ohio University on a wrestling scholarship, seeing senior Rachel Hale break down gender barriers and show that girls can mix it up with the boys or seeing nearly 100 wrestlers over Legacy's lengthy coaching career go on to wrestle at the next level. Some might not make it to that level -- there is nothing wrong with that -- but at least the opportunity was available.

But beyond the abilities the wrestlers gain on the mats, they also learn important life lessons off of it.

Take Webb, for instance. While now a four-time defending state champion and two-time New England king, much of Webb's success has come down to his willingness to go the extra mile. Webb has worked hard in training, putting in hours of extra work to gain that edge he has over his opponents.

Think that commitment to working hard will help him as he gets older?

Or how about Hale, herself a two-time Vermont champion. Hale was not on the varsity team in the state meet this year because she lost in a wrestle-off to Taber Watson during the season. Did she give up? Nope. Instead, she won a crown at the JV meet and will continue her wrestling career next year at King University, the premier women's wrestling program in the country.

Think when something goes wrong down the line she is going to give up?

Legacy doesn't just make athletes. He makes well-rounded individuals. MAU wrestling installs traits that we all need in life and provides a shining beacon on what can be done to make a difference in someone's life.

Examples of this kind of coaching and dedication are everywhere, but Legacy has been a consistent figure in the lives of MAU students since the 1980s, not only as a wrestling coach but as a teacher. He has found a recipe for success and stuck with it.

He has committed his life to bettering others. He has provided a constant feel-good story line for this community that make even dark days seem that much brighter.

Life is about finding opportunities and exploiting them.

Luckily for the Bennington community, Legacy provides one opportunity and, thankfully, his wrestlers have stepped up and made the most of their chances.

Geoff Smith is the Assistant Sports Editor at the Bennington Banner. He can be reached at 802-447-7567 ext. 120, by email at gsmith@benningtonbanner.com, or on Twitter @GSmith_Banner.