Dan Neff credits the Solanco wrestling program with setting him on a successful course and providing some of his fondest memories.
He's ensuring current Mules have the same opportunity.
Neff, Solanco's first PIAA champion and an NCAA Division I All-American, was a featured instructor at Solanco's annual Rubicon wrestling clinic last Wednesday through Friday.
Neff, an assistant coach at the Naval Academy, joined former Mules Ronnie Perry and A.J. Wilson, and Penn Manor grad Ethan Wissler, who was part of two national championship teams at Penn State. "It's nice because we have alumni, Dan Neff, Ronnie Perry, come back and show what they learned in college and how much wrestling has changed," Solanco High coach Tony Mendez said. "My group is seeing Solanco guys who went on to be really successful and learning from those guys."
Twenty-two wrestlers attended the three-day clinic, 19 from Solanco and three from Penn Manor. Solanco has been hosting the Rubicon clinic for more than 15 years. It began under legendary Solanco coach John Little when Mendez was an assistant and Mendez has carried on the tradition since Little retired two years ago.
Neff, who attended Solanco's Rubicon clinics beginning when he was in junior high school, became the Mules' first PIAA champion in 2011, about an hour before teammate Thomas Haines captured the first of his four state titles.
"It meant the world to me," Neff said. "It's still one of the most special moments I've ever been through in my life and I pretty much owe it all to this program. It jump-started me mentally that I could go to the next level, that I was really good. I knew Thomas was going to come back and win it, too, but it was good to get that pressure off."
At Lock Haven, Neff, a four-time NCAA tournament qualifier, earned All-American honors his junior season when he placed eighth in the nation. He says his time at Solanco played a huge part in his college success. "It made all the difference," said Neff. "We have a great facility, great coaches, great people. I want the program to get back to where it was. This played a huge role in my success and I just hope I can play a little role in these kids' lives as well."
Neff relishes the opportunity to give back to his community. "This is where I'm from. This is my hometown," Neff said. "I have a lot of pride here. I want it to be really successful. So any chance I can get back and help Coach Mendez out, it means the world to me. This program means a lot to me so I love getting back here and helping out."
Perry also attended Lock Haven and was a three-time NCAA qualifier.
Solanco is hosting a Rubicon Introduction to Wrestling Clinic from July 23-25. The clinic, for wrestlers entering kindergarten-sixth grade in the fall, is free for Solanco students. Instruction will be provided by the Solanco Elementary Wrestling Program coaching staff.
Rubicon is defined as a bounding or limiting line, especially that when crossed commits a person irrevocably. Rubicon was a river crossed by Julius Caesar and his army in 49 B.C., a forbidden act which eventually led to Caesar becoming the undisputed ruler of the Roman world.