LAURINBURG — Upstanding fathers and husbands is what Thomas Havner is striving to make his wrestlers.
“At the end of the day these guys are going to go on and be husbands and fathers and they have to learn they can’t give up in life, just like they can’t give up on the wrestling mat,” Havner said.
As teenage boys, all his wrestlers want is to be champions.
“They’ve been seeing us as a doormat the entire season,” said senior Jeremiah McCrimmon. “At regionals we’re going to bring it to them. We want to bring the program back to what it was when Nick Kee was here.”
Kee, a 2013 SHS graduate, is the most successful wrestler in Scotland High School history. He was a four-time conference and regional champion at 170 pounds to go along with being a three-time state champion and five-time All-American. Kee’s finished his high school career with an overall record of 210-4.
That is the bar the current Fighting Scots wrestling team is aiming for — on Friday and Saturday at the 4A Midwest Regional at Glen High School they will get their shot.
Scotland had 10 wrestlers qualify for regionals — senior Jeremiah McCrimmon, junior Ethan Tone, freshman Jason Blackenship, senior Juan Sanchez, sophomore Seth English, junior Charles Wall, senior Ja’Quann Carr, sophomore Brendon Smith, freshman Nathaniel Harrington and sophomore Ian Smith.
Heading into this weekend’s matches, McCrimmon is the highest ranked wrestler for the Scots in the 170-pound weight class. With a 10-4 record McCrimmon is ranked No. 5 in his weight class.
“I always tell people (Jeremiah) has been my most consistent wrestler all year and his record reflects that,” said Havner.
McCrimmon did not wrestler in the conference tournament due to a lingering back injury, the senior has been limited in practice the past two weeks. McCrimmon said his back feels fine and he’s ready to do his thing at regionals.
Sanchez is ranked 11th in the 285-pound weight class with a 7-2 record, as the second highest ranked wrestler. Tone at 132 and Carr at 182 are both ranked 12th in their respective weight classes. Tone has an overall record of 10-12 and Carr sits at 9-14.
I. Smith is ranked 13th in the 195 pound weight class with a 5-20 record while Wall is ranked 14th at 160 lbs. with a 7-8 record. Two Scots wrestlers are ranked 15th — B. Smith at 126 with a record of 6-12 and Blackenship at 138 with a record of 5-16. Harrington is ranked 16th in the 220 pound weight class with an overall record of 6-4.
Hanver said for a freshman, Blackenship has put in the hours to make himself better on the mat and despite his 5-16 record won’t go down without a fight.
“Jason may lose, but he’s going to make you work all six minutes and that’s what I want,” Havner said. “I want my guys not to give up. I want the effort and the fight.”
Despite the Scots less than stellar records, Havner reminds people that the Scots compete in one of the toughest conferences in the state and coming away with wins against Purnell Swett, Pinecrest and Lumberton isn’t easy.
“We have one of the toughest conferences, I would say, in the state because we’re so competitive,” Havner said. “Purnell Swett, Lumberton and Pinecrest have wrestlers go to state all the time. Some of my guys will be going against some of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded wrestlers in their weight class. Their job is to do what we’ve taught them, trust their instincts and wrestle.”
Havner is confident in the abilities of the 10 wrestlers he’s taking to regionals and knows that the youth of his team will pay dividends in a few years.
“My young guys are getting a lot of mat time, which equals experience and that translates into more wins on their record,” he said. “I can’t be more proud of this team — we sent six last year, now we’re sending 10. As a coach you feel like you’ve done something when you see your team progressing. I’ve set the bar, just that much higher, now next year I’ll have to send 12 or 14.”
The 4A Midwest regional is being held at Glenn High School in Kernersville beginning Friday, Feb. 9 at 5:30 p.m. Wrestling resumes Saturday, Feb. 10 at 9 a.m.
Tickets for Friday’s wrestling matches are $8 and Saturday’s will be $10. Fans can purchase full-tournament tickets for $15 or tickets for just the championship round for $6.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]