The Rider University wrestling program has moved even closer to South Jersey.
Already, junior Chad Walsh from Camden Catholic is a two-time All-American for the Broncs.
Add Rider associate coach John Hangey, who lives in Marlton. He is replacing the legendary Gary Taylor as the Broncs head coach next season.
“I couldn't have asked for a better mentor, a better coach or friend,” Hangey said. “And for him to pick me as the heir apparent after 39 years and to really push me to the administration and for them to embrace me, is really a dream come true to be honest.”
And the South Jersey wrestling community can get to know and embrace the affable Hangey at the Spring Stampede, a middle and high school tournament at Rider, on May 14.
Hangey, who became the fifth Broncs’ wrestler ever to earn All-America honors by placing fourth in 1993 at 190 pounds, certainly is comfortable selling the Lawrenceville school.
“It's close to home, parents can still watch and their support systems are intact,” Hangey said. “And we provide a quality education with a tremendous Division I wrestling program.
“It's a good fit for a lot of people, so we hope that it continues.”
Hangey, 46, is the perfect fit to continue the powerful program at Rider. He was a part time assistant coach at Rider from 1994-1997 before taking the head job at Bucknell University. He returned to Rider in 2000 as the program's first full time assistant.
“It's my alma mater, it's where I met my wife, my kids aspire to go there, it's my second home and I love everything about it,” Hangey said.
Hangey’s wife, Kimberly is from Marlton. Their daughter, Gwen, is a sophomore at Cherokee where she is a volleyball player and his son, J.P., is a fifth grader at the DeMasi Middle School. So its safe to say Hangey plans to being at Rider a long time, like his predecessor.
“It is bittersweet taking over for Coach Taylor because I don't ever want to see him go, but there is a time for everything to happen,” Hangey said. “But I'm also super excited to be the head coach and I told him ‘Coach I'm going to run this program where I'm never going to let you down.’
“He's taught me so much and I'm going to pay him back.”
Hangey posted a career record of 108-24 and is only the fourth Bronc to top 100 career wins. He won three conference titles and finished runner-up as a freshman despite missing most of the season with a broken ankle.
As a fifth year senior, Hangey won five bouts at the NCAAs giving him a career record of 11-6 in the national tournament, which is the best in school history.
“I was really proud of the career I had at Rider,” said Hangey, a graduate of Quakertown High School. “I really started to blossom in high school and beyond.
“I didn't start to get really good until my senior year. I moved up to 185 and won states.”
Hangey already brings head coaching experience. In his three years at Bucknell, he coached a pair of ECWA champions and two NCAA qualifiers.
“That was probably the hardest decision I ever made,” Hangey said about leaving Rider. “I was busted up should I go or not go? I obviously went and spent three great years there.”
But perhaps even more beneficial than his prior head coaching experience is Hangey welcomes back Walsh.
“I wish I had a team full of Chads, that's how much it means to have Chad back,” Hangey said. “He is an incredible young man and he is mature beyond his years. He is a tremendous leader and role model and leads by example.
“And the way he carries himself, whether it's with our administration, with the coaches or with his peers, he is first class in everything he does.”
Walsh and Ryan Wolf both won their 7th place bouts at the NCAA tournament.
“Wolf is the only kid we lose in the lineup and he's come so far this year and is a tough kid,” Hangey said. “It's always sad to see the good seniors go.”
Walsh also excels off the mat. On Tuesday, he received NWCA All-Academic honors.
“He is a special kid, and like I said, I wish I had 25 of him on my team because I wouldn't have to do anything. I could just sit back and watch them go,” he said.
“It's important for us as coaches to have leaders and roll models in your room like that every day because the other kids learn and aspire to be like them and you couldn't ask to have anyone better than Chad Walsh on your team.”
Although Hangey plans to build on Rider’s tradition, he does hope for one sudden change. He hopes to wrestle Rutgers in the near future.
“They got a good thing going right now and they are a good program,” Hangey said. “We've been bugging them for years to wrestle…so I hope to get them on the schedule because it's important for us to have Big Ten schools on the schedule.
“There are so many Jersey kids in the starting lineup for both schools it needs to happen,” Hangey said. “I will even go to them in the first year I don't care.”
You get the feeling that South Jersey is going to get to know Hangey much better, too.