Friday February 11, 2011
A legacy is defined as the passing down of something from each generation to the next. Given that meaning, it's especially fitting that the word and the last name of the most successful wrestling coach in Vermont history are one and the same.
The success Mount Anthony Union High School's Scott Legacy and his staff have had over the past 25 seasons -- a generation -- is beyond extreme.
* Nationally, Legacy's 535 victories with the Patriots ranks him among the top all-time high school wrestling coaches.
* His Patriots have won the Vermont championship every year since 1989, 22 straight, a national record for consecutive state crowns by one program.
* Since 1989, Legacy's teams have won five New England championships -- the last in 2004 -- and had six runner-up finishes.
* He's chartered Mount Anthony to 11 undefeated seasons. Beyond the 535 wins, his squads have lost just 32 matches and been tied twice since 1985.
And then there's the national recognition.
In 1996, 2000 and 2005, Legacy has been awarded national Coach of the Year awards. MAU has been nationally ranked several times in the past two decades. He's also a six-time Vermont coach of the year.
So the question is: What makes Scott Legacy so successful?
‘They work harder than anybody else'
He's too humble to offer answers and defers to his assistant coaches, both paid and volunteer, most of whom wrestled for Scott over the past two and a half decades.
Shawn Legacy is Scott's brother and has been a part of the team as a volunteer assistant coach for the entire run.
"His drive to success is that he hates to lose more than he likes to win," said Shawn Legacy. "We do things to the extreme and that's the drive. It was the way our parents taught us."
Scott Legacy embeds that drive to succeed into every wrestler who walks into the MAU wrestling room.
"Everyone is treated the same, even if you're a captain, it's a privilege to wrestle for Mount Anthony, not a right," Shawn said. "We set the bar high. People talk about doing things the MAU way, and you need strong leaders to do that."
Mount Anthony athletic director Tim Brown, said that there isn't any sugarcoating in the MAU wrestling program.
"With Scott, what you see is what you get. I see the same Scott Legacy that I saw when I first got the job in 1988. He doesn't act like he's something that he's not," Brown said. "He works hard, he expects a lot from the kids and he turns them into overachievers."
Work ethic is another term that constantly crops up in any conversation about MAU wrestling.
"You can't really compare his with other programs and that says a lot about how hard they work," Brown said. "There is so much success because they work harder than anybody else."
Tighe Stratton, 33, won back-to-back varsity championships under Legacy in 1995 and 1996. He has a unique perspective on the program as a member of those title teams.
"I was just in the wrestling room (recently), and one of the things that makes Scott successful is that he's a great motivator," Stratton said. "He gets the best out of everyone who goes through his program."
Scott's continued ability to win gives his wrestlers something to buy into, which they've done for the past two decades.
"We instill discipline and show them the dreams and goals ahead of time and the kids start to buy it, " Shawn Legacy said. "They know up front what they need to succeed and they want to give back to the program."
From the living room
to the wrestling mat
Scott Legacy has had wrestling in his blood nearly from the beginning, but only thanks to his brother.
"I started wrestling first," Shawn said.
As most families did at that time, the Legacies only had one car. So Scott, two years older, had to wait for Shawn to finish MAYAA basketball practice. Armand Patenaude, one of the first wrestling coaches at Mount Anthony when the program began in 1969, coached MAYAA basketball at that time.
Shawn says that the two got into wrestling because of the "living room brawls" they had growing up in Bennington.
"My mom wanted us to get our energy out somewhere else," Shawn joked.
Tongue in cheek, Shawn claims Scott's drive to succeed was enhanced by his own success as a young athlete. Both boys played basketball and wrestled growing up, but eventually their mother, Marie, told the boys they would have to make a decision and pick between the two sports.
The way she framed it, it was a simple choice.
"She said if you wrestle, you can make a name for yourself," Shawn said. "We made names for ourselves."
Scott Legacy graduated from MAU in 1981, winning the Vermont championship three times ('79-'81). He also became a high school and college All-American and placed at New Englands in 1980 and 1981. Shawn won two state titles, but a shoulder injury preventing him from winning a third.
"I can't tell you how many trips we made, we'd pack up a van and go -- to Boston or other places in Massachusetts -- just to get better and better," Shawn said.
Both Legacies went to Morrisville State College and wrestled under legendary coach Dennis Nostrand, who coached from 1983-1987. Nostrand also coached at Canastota (N.Y.) High School.
"He instilled some of the stuff that we brought back to Mount Anthony," Shawn said.
Scott was an All-American at the junior college level before transferring to Oswego State for college, graduating in 1985 and immediately got the job piloting the Patriots varsity.
Back to MAU
The first years in the coach's chair weren't the easiest. In 1985, 1986 and 1988, only one Mount Anthony wrestler won a Vermont state championship. In 1987, none did -- the only time that's happened in Scott Legacy's illustrious career.
However, in 1989, something seemed to change. That year, three wrestlers -- Mike Pimental, Jarrod Elwell and John Bushee -- won individual championships and Mount Anthony won the Vermont state title for the first time since Legacy had won it as a student in 1980. Bushee also won Legacy's first New England championship.
According to Scott Legacy, the run started in the 1988-89 season because, "During the 1988 season, our wrestlers bought into the program, and started to look at the sport as something more than just an in-season sport. Kids started training year round."
The program started to come full circle in the mid-90s. From 1994-97, no fewer than six wrestlers won individual championships each year. To date, Legacy has coached 127 state champs, nearly double the man in second place on the all-time list, Vestavia Hills (Ala.) coach Stephen Gaydosh.
"If you lose the match today, the next time you're in the wrestling room, you'll hear about it," Stratton said. "Scott sees the best in everyone.
"Because of that individual motivation, MAU has been a success every year he's been there."
Over the years, wrestlers have transferred to MAU to get a chance to learn under the Legacy way. Alongside the home-grown wrestlers and combined with the program's winning foundation, the Patriots have been able to consistently stockpile talent.
"If there's ever been a program that exemplifies reloading and not rebuilding, it's MAU wrestling," Brown added.
A culture of family
While the Legacies gave up a lot as individuals to get where they are, Mount Anthony wrestling also has an extremely influential family component -- something that helps the success on the mat flourish off it.
Legacy is the leader, but it's the rest -- coaches, parents, grandparents, siblings -- that show what MAU wrestling is all about.
"Every match is like a family reunion," Shawn said.
Brown said that family support is not just during wrestling matches on a Tuesday night or a tournament on a Saturday.
Scott and Shawn's parents, Harold and Marie, are still in the stands for every home match and they wear the Mom and Dad Legacy coats the family had made for them.
"Scott always places the most importance on family and it shows in the kids that come out and the coaches he surrounds himself with," Brown said. "It's a good family dynamic -- there's loyalty and the support he conveys to his wrestlers; he's there for them."
"There's so much that's not tangible. We always tell the kids that it goes family first, school second and wrestling third," Shawn said. "It takes a big commitment to do this."
The program engenders that same sort of dedication from the rest of the home team, too.
"The parents are really involved," Brown said. "A caravan of people go to all the wrestling meets. They are the ones who leave at the crack of dawn for a tournament and come back late at night."
Success breeds success
There is also a bit of impressionism that has gone on as Mount Anthony's unparalleled run continues.
"Youth wrestlers coming up see guys winning a championship and they want to be a part of that," Shawn said. "You do what you have to do to get there, and that's a big part of the success.
"The first day of hunting in Vermont is a holiday, but it's about commitment. If you want to be successful, you can't go hunting. It's not easy, but it's a lifelong lesson for when they leave the wrestling room."
Stratton knows those lessons first-hand.
"There's only so much you can do for some guys. There's a lot of temptation," said Stratton, who still lives in Bennington. "I almost fell into that, but wrestling helped me get through it."
Stratton recalled being kicked off the team as a sophomore and the only way Scott Legacy would let him come back was to sign a contract to stay straight and have a meeting with Scott, the assistant coaches and his father.
"Every year I see it with wrestlers," Stratton said. "Some stick with it and others go in the opposite direction. Without wrestling, I don't know what path I would have taken."
Alums like Stratton seem to flock back to the school and to the wrestling room downstairs in the basement.
Many of the assistant coaches are former Patriot wrestlers, including B-team coach Brian Coon, a former state champion, and middle school coach Ken Volkmer, just to name two.
"You always see a lot of alumni come back -- it's one of the program's biggest assets," Stratton said.
When the wrestlers see and feel the family-style atmosphere, it can really change them for the better, even after their career is done.
"Kids have a chance to make something of themselves, get to travel all over the place: Ohio, Alabama, it gives kids opportunities that they may not have otherwise," Brown said. "Success is great for the self-esteem."
In the end, the wins are nice, but the main goal is what happens after the referee's hand hits the mat, Shawn Legacy said.
"Wrestling teaches lifelong lessons that drive you. It's more than just a sport," he said. "It's about seeing kids thrive through adolescence. It's what we all strive for."