Fittery steps down as Eagles’ mat coach

By on April 11, 2018

 

Matt Fittery (right) gets animated during the State Wrestling Tournament in March. Recently, the eight-year Cocalico coach turned in his resignation. (Review file photo)

Matt Fittery was a man on a mission when he took over as head coach of the Cocalico wrestling program eight years ago.

Although the squad he inherited was extremely low on numbers and barely competitive, Fittery was confident he and his staff could turn things around sooner rather than later.

And he and the Eagles did just that.

Cocalico enjoyed amazing growth under his leadership, and the past three seasons, the Eagles have emerged as one of the top wrestling programs in the L-L League, if not District Three.

Now, after owning at least a share of three straight section titles the last three campaigns and three straight District Team Tournament appearances, Fittery is ready to pass the torch.

Recently, Fittery made the decision to step down in order to spend time with his young family.

“Right now I have three young kids and the oldest isn’t even four yet, so things are busy at home and I want to make sure I am there for them first,” Fittery said Tuesday. “Being the head coach of a program takes a huge amount of time if you want to be successful at it. I don’t want to sell the wrestling program or my family short by not spending enough time with either one, so I think the best thing is for me to take a less-time-consuming coaching role.”

He admitted it was a tough decision.

“The decision was extremely tough,” he said. “I love coaching and I love the sport of wrestling, so I will probably never completely stop coaching wrestling. It is definitely going to be hard for me to not be the head coach of a program, but I know I can still have a positive impact on kids if I am just a volunteer coach or a club coach.”

Three seasons ago, after several years of rebuilding, Fittery and the Eagles finally broke through and won the Section Two title. The Eagles went 19-4 that year and punched their first ticket to Districts.

Following that season, Fittery made the decision to voluntarily move the Eagles up to Section One, looking to get better against some of the top programs in the league.

The Eagles responded with a 14-6 mark, tying Conestoga Valley for the section crown while advancing to Districts again.

That led to this past season when Cocalico ran roughshod through the section on its way to another crown. The Eagles finished 14-3, went to Districts for a third-straight year and added a sectional tournament team title.

Also, three individuals&tstr; Josiah Gehr, Ben Fromm and Joe Bearinger&tstr; all advanced to States, which is the most to make it to Hershey under Fittery’s guidance. Following the season, Fittery was named Section One Coach of the Year,

Needless to say, Fittery accomplished what he set out to do.

“I am the type of person that always sets high goals, so we never fully achieved all the goals we set,” he said. “However, we definitely accomplished a lot with the program during the time I was here. I was fortunate to have a great group of coaches with me over the years, and many great wrestlers and parents who helped in the process. I am very thankful for that! The thing that makes me most proud as a coach is when I see wrestlers who have graduated and are now living successful lives and just being great people. I am also very glad to see that there is much more excitement in the community about Cocalico wrestling now. My first year of coaching I think we only had about 8-10 kids on the team and only a few parents were at the matches. Now there are more students and fans that get excited about the sport.”

While he’s stepping away from the mat for the time being, he’s pretty adamant he’ll stay involved in the sport in some capacity moving forward.

“I think I will keep coaching wrestling until I physically can’t move anymore,” he said. “I just need to step back as a head coach right now. We will see what the future holds, but I would love to be a volunteer assistant or something like that next year if the new head coach would be OK with that. I want to keep helping kids with the sport of wrestling, so I am sure I will be coaching in some capacity next year. “

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