Matt Rix, the man responsible for turning Marshwood High into a state wrestling power, is retiring as coach after 34 seasons.

Marshwood won 10 state titles under Rix, four in Class B between 1989 and 1999 and six of the past seven Class A championships.

“There are so many good memories and it wasn’t all about winning,” Rix said. “My wrestling family is huge and they’ve got me through so many tough times.

“I’m going to miss the kids. That was the hardest part,” said Rix, who told his team at its season-ending banquet last Wednesday. “I was hoping they would understand. I got a hug from everybody and I told them, ‘Man, I’m sorry, it’s just time. I’m tired.’ ”

Rix, 55, said he suffered a heart attack this past October, about three weeks before he and his wife, Teresa, were married. Rix said he’s feeling good now but the personal health scare, combined with a desire to travel and visit friends and family, were factors in his decision.

“I need a little break,” Rix said. “I could miss it and be back. But I just need a break right now.”

Marshwood won the 2018 title in an upset. By season’s end the Hawks had an uncharacteristically small roster because of injuries and athletes leaving the program. But they rallied and defeated a strong field, including regional champion and longtime rival Noble, with seven wrestlers at the state meet.

“It was a tough year for us all around. We had a lot of kids quitting. A lot of days I would come home from practice and I just wasn’t feeling it,” Rix said. “Then the way the season ended – it ended on a great note – and it just kind of felt right. That’s how I wanted to be remembered, what these kids did and what we did as a team.”

Rix wrestled at Marshwood before graduating in 1981. He began volunteering as an assistant in 1983 before getting the head varsity job.

Rix quickly began organizing a youth wrestling program and was among the first coaches in Maine to encourage offseason training and competition.

“His value is immeasurable and I would be very confident to say that some of his greatest contributions have come off the mat with kids,” said Athletic Director Rich Buzzell.

“He’s been a father figure to a lot of those kids. Regardless of the state championships and the individual state champions, his greatest accomplishment is reaching them on a personal level and that will never be replaced.”

An electrician, Rix purposely worked third shift for 25 years so he could coach right after the school day ended.

“I’ve worked my life around the program,” Rix said.

More than 50 of Rix’s wrestlers won a total of 88 individual championships. Forty-two of his wrestlers won more than 100 matches.

Jon Hussey, Tyler Davidson, Jackson Howarth, Cody Hughes and Bradley Beaulieu became four-time state champions. Hughes is a redshirt sophomore at Virginia Tech and Beaulieu is a freshman at Old Dominion. Beaulieu set a state record for career wins (248-15), breaking the mark previously held by Hughes.

“He’s very easy to talk to so he got to know his wrestlers right away and that bond is huge,” Beaulieu said.

“With him being there encouraging us, it made us want to do the best for him and the other wrestlers. He’s also one of the best people with technique that I’ve encountered through coaching.”

Rix is the father of four. His older daughters, Brittany and Sherry, were involved with wrestling.

Brittany wrestled through the eighth grade and Sherry was a four-year manager.

His youngest daughter, Deanna, was a high school standout and went on to twice place at the world women’s championships. Like his older sister, Matty Rix became a 100-win wrestler at Marshwood.

Matty Rix, then 19, died of a prescription drug overdose in 2009.

Matt Rix never hid from his son’s death. He used it as a cautionary example for his team. Marshwood’s wrestling singlets bear the initials “MTR.”

The Matt T. Rix Memorial tournament for youth wrestlers is held annually at Marshwood.

“By staying with the program and being dealt something that severe, he pretty much showed all the kids that as long as you keep working hard, you can persevere and get through it and it will actually help you become a better person,” said Todd Hughes, Cody’s father and a member of Marshwood’s first title team in 1989.

Todd Hughes is one of several former Hawk wrestlers who helped Rix create strong youth and middle school programs, and oversee the Marshwood New England Classic youth tournament that annually draws over 1,000 K-8 wrestlers to the Cross Insurance Arena.

“I hope I’ve left behind a stable program, a program that’s kind of self-sustaining, if the pee wee and junior program is there with two great fundraisers,” Rix said.

Rix’s coaching peers pointed to his willingness to help wrestlers from any program.

“He was among the first to see the value in freestyle wrestling and going to some of the bigger tournaments in the summer,” said Erick Jensen, the Mt. Ararat/Brunswick coach. “That not only helped his own kids but he coached many others from other schools and helped move the whole wrestling community forward.”

Jensen and Wells Coach Scott Lewia both said that welcoming spirit extended to the high school season. Marshwood routinely hosted multischool practices to help wrestlers tune up for regional, state and New England tournaments.

“Hard-working. Sportsmanlike. Marshwood wrestling was everything you want your program to be,” Lewia said. “They’re highly regarded and I think that all comes from Matt and how he’s done things.”

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Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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