LAURINBURG — After a disappointing end to the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Scots wrestling team has a new head coach and a new outlook.
Thomas Havener has assumed the role of head coach after Rangel Moore stepped down over the summer. The Scots wrestling program under Havener will focus on the team aspect of the sport and being seen by their competition as a top-to-bottom threat.
“Scotland wrestling this year is going to be very exciting, we brought a lot of new talent to create the perfect mixture of old and new,” he said. “I’m not looking to emulate and match what was done in previous seasons, I’m looking to exceed and progress.”
The Fighting Scots had eight team wins last season, the most since 2005, but fizzled out towards the end of the season as the roster thinned. The Scots finished sixth in the Southeastern conference after losing five matches in the conference tournament.
The Scots advances six wrestlers to the 4A East Regional tournament — Dakota McLean and Deante Harrington who return for their senior seasons; juniors Quazay Person and Jeremiah McCrimmon and sophomores Seth English and Ethan Tone.
The regionals is where the Scots season ended last year, as McLean was knocked out in consolation semi-finals. This season, Havener doesn’t want any of his wrestlers in the individual tournament, he wants the team to finish in the top four of the conference and advance to the regional and state dual meets.
“I’m looking for a state dual meet championship, I’m not looking for individual championships because individuals win you matches but they don’t win you meets and tournaments, teams do,” he said. “If you’re worried about the overall team you know they are going to have more than one good wrestler. I emphasize the team being good because if you make the whole better the individuals will fall in line.”
Havener says he will be looking to his 10 seniors to be leaders on the team, but more than that Havener wants his returning starters to take charge of their grade level and keep the program alive and thriving.
“Dakota is a force to be reckoned with on the mat. Ethan Locklear is a solid stud as a senior. He’s a 160 pound wrestler, but will be one of my guys that moves amongst the weight classes because we need him on the mat,” said Havener. “Jeremiah McCrimmon is another solid guy, he’s one of my light-heavyweight guys. As far as my lightweight guys Seth English is only a sophomore, he’s showing great tenacity. I have a leader at every grade level, who are looking to pass on the torch every year. We can’t be slept on this year.”
Despite his high expectations that the Scots finish in the top four of the first season of the Sandhills Athletic Conference, Havener knows Purnell Swett, Lumberton and Jack Britt as more than likely going to maintain their stronghold on the top three slots in the region.
“Being that I want to go for a state dual meet title, I would like to finish in the top four of the pack,” Havener said. “I don’t want to discredit anyone, but I also don’t want to put us all the way at the bottom and say we’ll progress from there. We are no longer going to be the victims of this conference, we are going to conquer the mat. I’m looking forward to our conference because top-to-bottom there is no team you can sleep on.”
Most people have seen Havener on the sidelines Friday nights in Pate Stadium as one of the assistant football coaches, but he does have a wrestling background to go along with his football skills.
“I was a football player on a basketball court and someone introduced me to wrestling in high school. I wrestled at the heavyweight class for two years in high school before doing club wrestling in college,” he said. “After that I just kept up with it to stay in shape and was asked to take over the head coaching job this year and gladly took it.”
Fans who have seen Havener on the sidelines know he has a certain intensity level, he does admit that will be toned down slightly for wrestling, simply because it’s a confined space.
“I can’t yell and scream as much as I do during football because we are in close quarter during a wrestling match,” he said. “As far as coaching goes, there will still be that same intensity, tenacity and swagger. During matches I’ll be analyzing what the other wrestler is doing and telling our guys how to counter. You’re still going to see the same swagger that I have on Fridays but it’s going to be adapted to the indoors.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.