Ranger football patriarch resigns post

Herald Sports Writer

Terry Wagner reached a point in his life where the items on his bucket list were no longer football-related.

Forest Park’s first and only football coach retired Wednesday when the Southeast

Terry Wagner

Dubois School Board accepted his letter of resignation, almost six years to the day after signing to build the program from the ground up.

“I really enjoyed (my time at Forest Park),” Wagner said this morning. “It’s fun to be able to come in and take something from the bottom and work up. One of things I told a younger coach (on the Ranger staff) is we need to start traditions here and have things that people can carry on. Being able to work with the community, I think they listened to a lot of my views of what needs to be done.”

Wagner, 60, was hired in 2005 after teaching at Perry Central, working as an assistant coach and head coach off and on since 1977. In a similar situation, Wagner helped build the Commodores from perennial cellar-dweller to a 1999 Class 1A state finalist. The Commodores went 62-51 record in his 12 years as head coach.

The Rangers launched their football program in 2006, starting off as a junior varsity program for two years before the transition to varsity. In four varsity seasons, Forest Park has accumulated a 20-21 record, including an 8-3 season in 2010 in which the Rangers won the school’s first postseason game. Wagner retires with a 82-72 overall coaching record.

“I don’t think we could have placed anyone different in that spot,” Forest Park athletic director Doug Louden said today. “When he came in, he was successful wherever he’s been and he was the right choice and he proved that to everyone. He’s done a good job building the program and getting his players to buy into the program and they had success right away.”

Wagner cited his growing family — he welcomed his first grandchild three weeks ago — age and health concerns as factors contributing to his decision to retire. He overcame cancer a few years ago and has some lingering heart problems; the stress of the game began to wear.

“It’s a young man’s game,” Wagner said. “When football starts up in summertime (with two-a-day practices) it’s real hard on me. ... There are things on my bucket list (like travel) that I still want to do that I’ve been promising my wife.”

“The stress he deals with is a lot to handle,” Louden added. “He’s so competitive it’s not even funny ... And the louder he gets, the more stressed he would get.”

The school board will begin searching for Wagner’s replacement immediately. Both Wagner and Louden emphasized the importance of filling the spot quickly because, as Wagner pointed out, “the 2012 season has already started.”

Louden, who hopes to have a replacement picked by the next school board meeting Dec. 7, said an internal candidate has already expressed interest in the opening.

“Anybody who’s worked under Wagner is going to have an advantage,” Louden said. “(Wagner’s) done such an acceptable job and he treats his coaches with such utmost respect. Anyone who’s worked for him is going to be a step ahead, know the system and know what we expect.”

Contact Joanne Norell at jnorell@dcherald.com.

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