#WrestlingWednesday Feature: 900 Wins and Counting
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By JEREMY HINES
NEW CASTLE â€” A lot has changed in the world since Rex Peckinpaugh began coaching wrestling at New Castle High School.
Michael Jackson was the big hit on the radio when Peckinpaugh started out. Ronald Reagan was President. Microsoft introduced the world to MS-DOS, the 3M company started mass producing Post-it notes and MTV first went on the air.
One thing that hasnâ€™t changed for Peckinpaugh, now in his 34th season at the helm of the Trojan team, is his ability to win.
Peckinpaugh reached his 900th dual victory of his career (all with New Castle) last week at the Broncho Duals in Lafayette. New Castle went 8-1 in the meet to push its season record to 27-4.
â€œWhen I got that 900th win, it was a special moment,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œI couldnâ€™t help but sit back and think of my mom and dad who didnâ€™t miss a match for about 500 of those wins. But when it was over, I was ready to go for 901 wins.â€
Peckinpaugh has been Indianaâ€™s winningest coach for years. He is No. 2 nationally in high school wins.
â€œRex is obviously a good coach,â€ former Trojan standout turned Shenandoah head coach Gary Black said. â€œYou donâ€™t get anywhere near 900 wins without knowing what youâ€™re doing. But I think heâ€™s an even better motivator in life. For Rex, it isnâ€™t so much about the wins and losses as it is about having the chance to instill great values and teach kids to be good individuals off the mat.â€
Peckinpaugh can still tell specific details about every wrestler that has put on a Trojan uniform for him.
â€œThey are all still pretty fresh in my mind,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œI can tell stories on any of them if Iâ€™m asked to do so.â€
Peckinpaugh continues to coach because he loves watching kids improve.
â€œItâ€™s not so much about the winning and losing,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œMy favorite part of coaching is seeing kids get better in the sport. I love that moment when the lights go on so to speak. Also, I enjoy building the team each year. Itâ€™s like a construction project. Every year something changes and you have to figure out how to build the team to be successful.â€
This year the Trojans do not have any seniors in the lineup. They are led by seven freshmen, four juniors and three sophomores.
â€œHeâ€™s taken a very young team and has worked to get the most out of his lineup,â€ Black said. â€œItâ€™s easy to see why heâ€™s so successful.â€
One stat that Peckinpaugh is proud of is that all of his teams have either won a sectional, a conference title or a regional. The Trojans had a winning streak of 106 matches from 1992-95. The team won 29 consecutive sectional titles from 1976 until 2003 (a streak that started before coach Peckinpaugh took over at New Castle).
The 2004-05 Trojans lost the sectional to Centerville. It was the only time a Peckinpaugh coach team did not win the sectional tournament. But instead of focusing on the loss, Peckinpaugh geared the team up for the upcoming regional. New Castle would later win the team regional and become the first team in the state to not win a sectional, but turn around and claim a regional title.
â€œThatâ€™s an important thing as a coach and as a wrestler,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œYou have to have a short memory. If you get beat, you have to look at whatâ€™s next. If you donâ€™t, youâ€™ll get caught up in celebrating the moment and lose the next one. Or youâ€™ll be so depressed youâ€™ll lose the next one.â€
Peckinpaugh is the first to point out that his success also has a lot to do with those who are helping him. Mark â€œSparkyâ€ Griffith has been an assistant coach for Peckinpaugh for almost the entire time heâ€™s been at New Castle. Frank Ryan, Ted Fitzgerald and Larry Sutton were also instrumental in building the New Castle program. He also points out that his wife Bonnie has been a huge supporter of the team for the last 20 years.
Peckinpaugh has coached three four-time state finalists in Mac Taylor, Matt Jaggers and Connor Mullins. He has had one state champion â€” James â€œBubbaâ€ Dickerson won heavyweight in 1995 as a junior. He passed away before his senior season. He has had a plethora of state placers, including Brenden Campbell who was a state runner-up two seasons in a row. Campbell is currently wrestling for the United States Naval Academy.
In 1995 and 1996 New Castle was the team runner-up in the state. The Trojans took eight to state in 1996.
Peckinpaugh is a health teacher at New Castle. He is also on the New Castle City Council. He was an assistant football coach for the Trojans in the 80s. He also was the girls golf coach for a short time.
â€œCoaching girls golf was an interesting experience,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œThey needed someone and I said Iâ€™d do it.â€
Peckinpaugh is not sure when he will retire from coaching. He feels he has a good assistant in Jason Martin who can take over the team and keep it in good hands.
â€œJason has been trying to get me to stay on to maybe go for 1,000 wins,â€ Peckinpaugh said. â€œI donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll hold on that long. But I do love coaching the kids, and that will never change.â€
If you have an interesting feature idea, please contact Jeremy Hines at firstname.lastname@example.org.