By Carlos Toro
Wrestling Head Coach Gary Taylor announced on Nov. 2 that the 2016-17 season would be his last. It is the last act in a legendary coaching career that has spanned five decades.
Associate Head Coach John Hangey, who has been Taylor’s assistant since 2000, will take the reins in 2017 as the program’s third head coach.
Taylor said he is retiring because of the program being in a good enough place where he would feel comfortable letting someone else take control and elevate the program even higher.
“I wanted to wait until the program was in a very good spot before I made this announcement,” Taylor said. “I had spoken to [Athletic Director] Don Harnum and he was very supportive of my decision. I told the team behind closed doors on [Nov. 1] and let them know before word came out and our competitors knew anything.”
Hangey said that he is honored and excited to be the new head coach at season’s end and is looking forward to continuing the success the wrestling program achieved throughout the years.
“I’ve worked with Coach Taylor for more than a decade and it’s almost hard not to use some of the things that he has instilled in us and allowed us to have great success,” Hangey said. “That being said, this allows us to bring in a new culture into the program and breathe new life into it.”
Taylor became the head coach at Rider in 1978 and provided consistency. In his time as head coach, a total of 169 Broncs competed in the NCAA Nationals, with 15 of them qualifying for All-American status. This year’s roster has two All-Americans: juniors B.J. Clagon and Chad Walsh.
“We have two returning All-Americans, which is something we have never had before,” Taylor said. “Ryan Wolfe was one match away from becoming an All-American, so we have a great group of guys this year, and I think we have a very good chance at a lot of success.”
The Broncs started the season at the Hokie Open at Virginia Tech, where Walsh and Clagon placed first and second in their weight classes, respectively.
Hangey said after the team heard their coach was retiring at the end of this year, they wanted to send Taylor off with a great season.
“The kids were supportive of Coach Taylor and they want to do everything in their power to give him a special final season,” Hangey said. “They want to dedicate this season to their coach, who has done so much for the program.”
Among his numerous accomplishments, Taylor has amassed 429 career wins, which ranks fourth all-time in NCAA Division I wins and he is first among active coaches. He has also led Rider to 14 conference championships. The Broncs are the defending Eastern Wrestling League champions.
When Taylor became the head coach at Rider, his goal was to bring national recognition to the program; a goal he knew would take some time. Taylor is proud of what he was able to accomplish and all the wrestlers who have competed for him.
“When I came to Rider, I wanted to give the school national recognition,” Taylor said. “[Staying at Rider] wasn’t the objective, but I knew it would take a long time to do it and it just happened.”