Marshwood wrestling victory provides some closure for coach after death of son

WINDHAM – Day after grueling day for 29 years, Matt Rix has poured his life into those of countless young wrestlers as the varsity coach at Marshwood.
And hour after tormented hour for the past three years, Rix has grieved the death of one of those wrestlers. His son. Matt “Matty” Rix.
While nothing can ever make up for the loss of a child, the claiming of the Maine Class A state wrestling champion by Marshwood on Saturday, provided Rix with a huge measure of closure for what has been a nightmarish period in his life.
“It means so much to bring it to an end,” said Rix. “I can’t say enough good things about this group of kids. They’re the best group of kids I’ve coached. They’ve all learned a valuable lesson out of that whole thing. We’ve tried to bring some good stuff out of something bad.”
Those kids, some of whom were teammates of the younger Rix, and all of whom wore his initials (“MTR”) on the back of their singlets, celebrated the Hawks’ emotional triumph by chanting his name, as the championship hardware was handed out.
“This one’s for Matty”, was the cry that came rocketed bounced off the Windham High gym walls. “Matty, Matty, Matty”.
Matty graduated from Marshwood in 2008 after having won more than 100 matches while wearing the purple and white.
But less than a year later, after grappling with a foe he couldn’t defeat — drugs and alcohol — he was found dead in a rooming house just across the Cocheco River in Dover, N.H.
He was just 19.
His father, heart broken but spirit resolute, was bent on making sure that something good — be it even the smallest victory — would come out of the tragedy.
He harnessed his heartache and focused all of his energy on his wrestlers, and had a message for them when the mats were hauled back out of storage the next winter.
“When I came back,” Rix said, “that was the statement that I made. I’m not dealing with any of the crap. ‘You guys are coming in clean. You’re coming in to work. You’re getting your grades done. Or I’m not hanging around.’”
As it was, the Hawks hung together, and were rewarded this weekend with a state title (their first in Class A, and fifth including Class B).
It came one day before Matty would have turned 22.
“It was a great gift,” said Rix. “These kids have worked so hard in the class room to keep themselves on the team. For hours every day. These guys have kept me in it. That’s why I’m still here. These guys pulled me out from the trenches. They made me come back.”