By Kevin Eickman
We all have it, that one hope deep down inside of us, our dream job. For former Milford wrestling coach Dan Rigby, it was the opportunity to coach at his Alma Mater, Caesar Rodney High School. This past week Rigby was offered and accepted the position to be head wrestling coach for the Division I program for which has been on a bit of a downturn of late. Make no mistake about it, this decision was not easy for Rigby.
“There is only one job in Delaware that I would have considered leaving Milford and CR was it,” Rigby said. “I wasn’t even sure if I would be offered the job, and even then this was by no means an easy decision.”
Five years ago Milford was desperate for a wrestling coach that would infuse life into the fledgeling program. When the then 23-year-old Rigby accepted the job, he commenced to instituting a culture change. It became evident early that things would be different at Milford, simply going through the motions was not going to be enough for anyone who wanted to be involved in the program. You did not have to be a superstar to be on the squad, but you always had to give it your best. Attending a Milford wrestling practice with Rigby at the helm was always something special, the pace and effort out forth was indeed something to behold.
While the initial results were less than thrilling, it was obvious that the program was headed in the right direction. Finally in the 2014 season it became apparent that the Milford program had arrived, rapidly going from dormant to dominant. The Buccaneers would go 10-1 in the regular season, their only loss coming to Division I tournament qualifier Cape Henlopen. The result of their regular season effort was the number one seed in the Division II tournament. Milford did not disappoint as they defeated Lake Forest and Saint George’s in dominating fashion to earn the title.
“Winning that title was very special to me, knowing how hard the guys had worked to get there and then grabbing the bull by the horns when the opportunity presented itself,” Rigby stated.
To follow that up, Milford came back even stronger this past season. With a bullseye on their back, Milford put together an 11-1 regular season. The Buccaneers sole loss came to eventual Division I champions Smyrna. Once again Milford entered the tournament as the number one seed, this time however there was nothing easy in earning their second consecutive title. Battling a determined Sanford team it took everything Milford had to retain their title. “That Sanford team gave us all we could handle tonight, my hats off to them,” Rigby said at the time.
This past April the Milford wrestling team got together for their annual awards banquet, it was at this event you got a feel for just how much his wrestlers meant to him, what really mattered most to Rigby. He had something to say about each wrestler, about what they brought to the team and how they all contributed to making the team better. You did not have to be a wrestler to mentioned either as coaches, equipment managers and supporters were all mentioned. There was little doubt what all these people meant to Rigby, something that he shared this past Friday.
“The support I received from the Milford community has been fantastic, they were always there for me, no matter what I needed someone was always there to step up,” Rigby commented. “That is what made this decision so difficult for me, I can’t begin to explain how emotional it has been for me this past week.”
Perhaps the toughest part of the week was telling his team. Rigby desperately wanted to speak with his players prior to the information becoming public knowledge, sadly that was not allowed to happen. “It was very upsetting that we could not meet prior to the news getting out about the job,” Rigby stated. “Understandably there was some frustration and anger on the part of the guys with how the news was made public. Having it get to the newspapers first was very upsetting, it was something I wish didn’t happen.”
It is never easy when a good thing comes to an end, but inevitably they do. While it could be easy to feeling let down, the better viewpoint is to be grateful for all the good Rigby accomplished during his time at Milford. Yes, there were two State titles, but there was so much more. Milford had the opportunity to watch him turn dozens of young men into quality citizens, that is the true legacy of his time at Milford. Something for which the Milford community should be grateful for.