Highlights of Northern Lebanon's 83-0 rout of Columbia, earning Coach Rusty Wallace's 100th career win. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
COLUMBIA – It’s already special for any coach to reach the century mark in wins at their school.
Accomplishing a feat like that at your alma mater makes it even more special, especially when you helped build that program to be one of the best in the area.
And accomplishing that prestigious win in dominating fashion makes even more fitting.
Northern Lebanon coach Rusty Wallace did just that, earning his 100th career win in his 11th season as Vikings coach, as NL crushed Columbia 83-0 Wednesday at Columbia High School in its first dual meet of the season.
Wallace said, “That’s the part that means a lot to me. Being able to come back to Northern Lebanon where I grew up and competed, and being able to help our program have a little bit of success. Just knowing a lot of the kids and their families and being able to coach these guys, even when they were youth kids growing up, that’s probably the coolest part for me.”
Two of those wrestlers who’ve shared that long bond with Wallace are Colin and Trevor Leonard, who both earned victories rather easily.
Colin Leonard, who won by a 17-1 technical fall over Columbia’s Brandon Derr, was happy to be a part of something very meaningful to the program.
“It makes us feel good. He’s a great coach,” Leonard said. “He just does a good job mentoring us through the season. He’s going to make us battled tested this year.”
And to have this moment with his brother and their life-long coach in a sport that’s been a big part of their lives makes all the more worthwhile.
“It’s great because we get to cherish this moment together,” Leonard said. “We’ve been with coach since elementary school, so for us to be a part of that is a great feeling.”
“It’s pretty special for us, coach, and for the team,” said Trevor Leonard, who earned a pin over Columbia’s Luke McGinnis 0:58 into the first period at 138. “Coming back and having him as a coach in high school after having him in elementary school is pretty great. He’s a great coach and one of my favorite coaches.”
Being able to create memories like those and enjoying time on the mat, but also pushing wrestlers to their best abilities is the one of the foundations of Wallace’s success.
Wallace said, “We try to explain to the kids that what we do in December and January is to wrestle a lot of really tough matches now, so you’re ready for February and March. So we try to make December really hard and then take a break after Christmas. But we also try to keep it light in the practice room, and try to have as much fun as we can. We want it to be fun, and we just want to see them compete as hard as they can. If they do that, then wins and all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
But despite the celebration of a notable milestone, Colin Leonard says he and his teammates were still focused at the task at hand.
“We just come in and do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “That’s all we really worry about is just going out there and putting in a full effort into what we do.”
Even their coach didn’t have No. 100 on his mind during the match.
“I don’t think about it. It’s really not a big deal,” Wallace said. “It’s nice, but at the end of the day, you’ll sacrifice a lot of things for that number. Just to see the kids compete and wrestle well, and I’m just super happy with where we’re at so far this season.”
And Colin Leonard certainly agrees, saying this the start of what the Vikings hope will eventually lead to their ultimate goal.
“That 100th win is just a small milestone for many things to come. We have a great team and we’re looking for that team state title,” he said.
But no matter the outcome of this season and future seasons, Wallace will always be grateful for the amount of commitment put into his program at NL, and for his cherished five years at Susquenita beforehand.
Wallace said, “I can only guide and teach so much. At the end of the day, you have to have really committed kids and supporting families. Personally, I have an extremely supportive wife and family that allows us to do all this stuff we need to do. They are all in 100 percent when we’re going to Virginia, Massachusetts or Florida during the summer. I’ve been blessed at both Susquenita and Northern Lebanon to have those super supportive and committed kids and families.”