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Leggett takes over as Whg. Park head wrestling coach

WHEELING — Stability is the backbone of any sports program. Despite changing head coaches for the third time in the last five seasons, newly-named Wheeling Park head coach Brian Leggett knows that stability is there for the Patriots in the upcoming 2018-19 campaign.

The 2012 West Liberty graduate was unanimously approved to take over for Clay Tucker during Tuesday night’s Ohio County Board of Education meeting. Tucker, who served as the head coach for the past three seasons, took a job outside the district, but will still be on the staff as an assistant.

Tucker, who is one of only 10 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestlers to win four conference tournaments during his days at Martins Ferry, said he always remembers something his high school football coach, retired legendary Purple Riders’ head coach (Dave) Bruney said about building a program was that stability is the No. 1 thing necessary.

“Once I got out of the school system, I knew I wasn’t going to be the guy to give this program the stability it needed,” Tucker noted. “That’s the decision I made and I’m happy where the program is at.”

Leggett, who has been a teacher at Wheeling Park for the past five years, has been directing the program since the preseason began last week.

“I feel great. When this position opened up, I kind of knew about and, to me, it was a perfect scenario,” he said. “I feel like this is the best program in the state and the best place to coach in the state. The county supports the program. The boosters support the program. We have feeder programs, small fry, Wheeling Wrestling Club … it’s a perfect scenario.

“On top of that we have five great coaches in the wrestling room,” he continued. “They all have college wrestling experience and all know what they are doing. We all know each other and that is key. Through some aspect of wrestling we’ve been in touch with each other. It’s a great atmosphere to be in.”

In addition to Tucker, who took over for Jack Doyle who is still on the staff, holdovers Justin Goneau, Todd Shelek and Dan Doyle, who led the Brooke program for the past several seasons, are also in Leggett’s corner.

“That’s important during tournaments when you can have multiple wrestlers on the mat at the same time,” Leggett noted. “In the practice room it is huge because we can give them so much hands-on work.”

How much of a transition it will be from college assistant coach to high school head coach is yet to be seen.

“To me I don’t notice a change so much. I try to keep things the same at every aspect,” Leggett said of the transition from college to high school. “Once you get inside the (wrestling) room, it’s all the same to me.”

Being in the building as a teacher, Leggett already knows many of the faces in the practice room every day.

“Half of the kids I had in my class when they were freshmen, so I know them. I have a relationship with them, and every other kid I seen every day, so I know them and they know me,” he said. “The relationships have already been formed and that’s a nice way to start.”

Leggett, a former West Liberty University matman, served as an assistant coach with Coach Mitch Smith’s Hilltoppers for the past four seasons. He was a fixture on the hilltop from 2007-11, serving as team captain each of his last two seasons. He posted a career-high 22 wins as a redshirt freshman and went on to a solid career that saw him etch his name in the Hilltopper record book.

By the time he was finished, he ranked No. 1 all-time at West Liberty in career reversals (87) and escapes (173). Leggett wrestled for three years at Waynesburg Central High School before transferring to Parkersburg High School for his senior season. He went 25-9 with the Big Reds and was the runner-up at 130 pounds in the West Virginia Class AAA state tournament.

Leggett has a degree in Social Studies Education, he also holds a master’s degree in Technology Integration in Education from Waynesburg (Pa.) University.

“I’ve been here for seven years, the last three as head coach. I decided to take a job outside the school system and when you’re not in the school, especially a school our size, it makes being a head coach really tough,” Tucker, a 2-time team captain at Ohio University, explained. “I knew we had several good guys that could step up and Brian took over. I feel we are in a very good position.

“We were just talking about how many really good coaches we’ve got in that (wrestling) room right now,” he added. “It makes it a little more comfortable for me in stepping down. I will probably be involved in wrestling my whole life, but being a head coach just became a little too much, not only for me but my family and it took time away from my actual job. It was little bit unfair to the other coach’s and kids that I wasn’t there last year as much as I should’ve been, so it felt like the right thing to do.”

The Patriots open the season Friday, Dec. 7 at the Doan Ford-Barnesville Invitational.

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