Successful Eden Prairie pins wrestling hopes on nation's winningest coach

  • Article by: DAVID HOUFEK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2014 - 12:03 AM

New wrestling coach Scot Davis wants to infuse his less-heralded team with Eden Prairie’s title culture.

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Eden Prairie head wrestling coach Scot Davis, left, and assistant coach Jeff Hohertz have high expectations and enthusiasm for the Eagles' program.

Photo: DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com,

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The sound of bodies slamming the mat and the roar of wrestling fans cheering last-second takedowns aren’t inherently associated with Eden Prairie athletics.

Eagles coach Scot Davis plans to change that.

As the nation’s winningest high school wrestling coach, Davis has returned to Minnesota in hopes to build a program that has arguably the most raw resources at its disposal: numbers, facilities and a growing championship culture in the halls.

“Here, there’s so many good sports, and wrestling’s not the sport. Changing that is something that’s going to take time; it doesn’t just happen in a year or two,” Davis said.

Davis has the pedigree to build a program. He won more than 1,000 dual meets in a career spanning 35 years and five high schools. Most of those victories, along with two state championships, came during a 25-year run at Owatonna.

He retired after the 2010-2011 season amid allegations that he tried to recruit a wrestler from California. The matter resulted in him getting suspended from coaching, including a year-long ban in Minnesota. He spent that year as the wrestling coach at a high school in Kalispell, Mont.

Now at Eden Prairie, Davis’ challenge is building up wrestling and getting more wrestlers, which brings more talent, victories and enthusiasm. Davis wants to create a prideful wrestling culture, focused on self-improvement and dedication. Then, the championships and accolades will come.

“You earn everything you achieve in the sport of wrestling,” he said. “There’s no money, it’s just self-satisfaction and what you achieve with work ethic. It’s about shaping lives and building kids and helping them become better at what they do.”

Athletic director and football coach Mike Grant has helped recruit students from the halls to join the wrestling team. He also gave Davis the chance to pitch his sport at each level of Eden Prairie’s football program.

Davis has spread his wrestling philosophy to younger levels while reinvigorating the middle school program. He believes success thrives from having a K-12 system. He also wants to tap into the championship mentality that permeates the school.

“Our guys have to realize what all it takes to be a championship caliber program. It takes more work than just wrestling during the season if they really want to be good,” Davis said.

Senior Nate Becker, who wrestles at 170 pounds, has done the work needed to win titles. He just finished his final year as a defensive end on the undefeated Class 6A championship football team.

“It’s not so much that the guys here don’t have that championship desire and don’t want to go for it,’’ Becker said. “We just don’t have the experiences as a team to be at that level.”

Davis hopes 138-pounder Ben Brancale will help jump-start the program from within. A state qualifier last year, the junior hopes to make a deep run for a state title.

“It’s most important to lead by example. I try to do everything the best that I can, making the right choices on and off the mat,” Brancale said.

Davis already sees the program rising to the competition of a tough section. The Eagles have a 9-5 record, highlighted by dual victories over Wayzata and Minnetonka. The coach hopes the intensity continues to grow.

“I saw one of coach Grant’s quotes and it said, ‘If your don’t win a state title at Eden Prairie, you’re nothing special.’ I like that quote because it really is a statement for this school,” Davis said. “I want our wrestling program to think like that. If you don’t dream big first, you’re never going to get there.”

 

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