CALCUTTA - As Rich Wright read the messages, he couldn't help but get a little choked up.
After ending a 14-year run as the football coach at Beaver Local on Monday, Wright spent a large part of his day reading through the many text messages he received from former players.
"I think I had numbers for 36 former players in my phone," Wright said. "I sent out a mass text and they all responded. Some of them made me cry. It's not as dramatic as a death by any means, but it kind of felt like that."
Rich Wright resigned on Monday as the head football coach at Beaver Local after a 14-year tenure, the longest in the school’s history. (Review file photo)
At the Beaver?Local Board of Education meeting on Monday, it became official. Wright resigned his post as head football coach after the longest tenure in the school's history.
"I've been Coach Wright for 21 years now,"?he said. "Obviously, it was a difficult decision. I've coached 30 seasons in a 21-year period with football and wrestling. In that time, I've had a lot of great memories and had the opportunity to be a part of some special families, players and events."
Wright, 44, said he will now pursue a career as a principal after earning his masters in school administration from Franciscan University.
At the ripe age of just 22, Wright - a 1986 East Liverpool graduate - was tabbed to take over the Beaver Local wrestling program. In 1998, at the age of 29, he replaced Ron Suran as the head football coach.
Wright took over a team that was coming off two 0-10 seasons in the past three years.
All Wright did was post a .500 or better record in each of his first nine seasons at the helm.
He ends his career at Beaver Local with an overall record of 83-66, which includes six playoff appearances.
"Before me the longest stretch was seven years coaching football," Wright said of Dale Stuby's run from 1988-94. "And I'm the longest tenured wrestling coach here. Looking back, I wouldn't change anything. It was just a matter of some different opportunities opening for me."
Wright led the Beavers to three 10-0 seasons and has coached many players who have gone on to play on the college level, including at least four who received Division I scholarships - Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati), Adam Hoppel (Cincinnati), Josh Pastore (Kent State), Jamin Pastore (Duke). Wolfe was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft in April by the Denver Broncos.
"I've been lucky enough to have some great athletes under my watch," Wright said. "And now, to top it all off with Derek in the NFL, well, you just couldn't ask for a better script."
The Beavers have fallen on tough times of late, winning just one game in each of the previous three seasons.
Despite their recent struggles, Wright believes he is leaving the football program in good shape.
"Things are heading in the right direction," he said.?"They've got a great principal and school board. We've had a great offseason and a bright future.
"Some may criticize my play-calling over the years, but not many have questioned our strength program. The guys have been working hard and I'm going to keep my accountability list up in the weight room. I'll do whatever they need me to do to make this a smooth transition."