By Brian Deaknye
RUMSON – The biggest name in Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School wrestling history is back.
Bryan Heller, the all-time school wins leader with a record of 118-12 over his four-year high school career, will now be at the helm of the Bulldogs wrestling program as the head coach.
Heller, who graduated from RFH in 2003 and went on to have an impressive career at Pennsylvania State University, had coached numerous clubs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before being named Rumson’s head wrestling coach in September.
“It is great to be back,” Heller said. “I am excited to work with young athletes who have a similar upbringing. I feel like I have a lot to offer them in their growth as athletes and into adulthood. I feel very comfortable with the RFH system and the current administration shares the same excitement of building the RFH wrestling program that assistant coach Seth Herman, Tom Skove of the Junior Bulldogs, and I have.”
Admittedly, Heller said he had lost his passion for the sport in the years since his graduation from college in 2007. It was last year, when Ken Iwama, a father of one of the RFH wrestlers, asked Heller to work with his son.
Then, it all came back to the former wrestling stud.
“To be honest, prior to the beginning of last season, I never would have thought it would have happened,” Heller said of becoming the head wrestling coach at Rumson. “I lost touch with the sport to a certain degree. I have been floating around coaching a few clubs and doing clinics, but the excitement was not all there.
“Once I got a chance to work with Marcus and some of the other guys in the room, my energy started to grow back. The guys worked hard, and were receptive to my coaching, and it re-lit that flame in me. Over the offseason, I put in some time with Triumph in Ocean Township with a freestyle program and got totally re-immersed into the sport.”
During his time at Rumson, Heller was a four-time district finalist and a two-time district champion. He won two region championships and was a two-time state placer. He took seventh place in 2003.
Heller wrestled as a lightweight in high school – at 103-, 119- and 130-pound weight classes. At Penn State, Heller wrestled between 133 and 141 pounds.
“I spoke with previous head coach Seth Herman who is staying on staff as the assistant and we both agreed we wanted to work together to build the RFH program to the next level, and are committed to so,” Heller said. “We received a lot of good feedback from parents and the current administration, and now everyone is excited to get the mats rolled out in December.”
Although there is certainly work to do – Heller is inheriting a team that went 2-16 last winter and compiled a 0-6 record within the division – the new coach is confident that the Junior Bulldogs feeder program is making moves in the right direction to help the program in the future.
“The feeder program is a necessity for any high school program looking for success,” Heller said. “Although athletes who begin wrestling in high school can and will find success, there is a certain level of excitement and commitment developed in the feeder program. We have wrestling families coming up with excited parents and kids who have found early success. This is the foundation for growing a successful program.”
Heller noted that while there are several reputable wrestling programs within the Shore Conference, he isn’t planning to imitate any of them at RFH. The Bulldogs will have their own, unique style.
“There are several impressively talented programs in the Shore Conference who seem to have a knack for getting the job done,” Heller said. “And with the help of coach Herman, the Junior Bulldog program, as well as the hard work of our athletes, I absolutely plan on putting Rumson in that elite category. I would not go as far to say I am going to model our program on any others as I believe each program has its own situation and for success to be found, a new model for each situation is required.”