Wednesday was the last dual of the season for the LaRue County wrestling team. They earned an easy win, crushing Oldham County, 58-7.
But this night, it wasn’t about the team, but about the coach. Heading into the evening, head coach Gary Canter had 399 wins. One more would give him a milestone that very few in the country, let alone the state ever reach – 400 career wins.
The team was in the locker room getting ready to come out for warm ups and they were pumped. Gary told me the team was acting like it was on drugs or something; they were just bouncing off the wall. He told me it was because we haven’t wrestled in a while and they were ready to wrestle.
That was part of it, but they were pumped to be the team to give Coach his 400th career victory.
Back in 1990, a good friend of Canter’s told him, “I wish you luck, but you will never be successful in LaRue County with wrestling and it will never catch on.”
For the first seven years it looked like that would be the case as Canter’s teams racked up an impressive record of 32-62.
That changed after the 1996 season. Canter credits the 1999 team for much of the Hawks’ success.
“That was the group of boys that bought into our system, our philosophy and made the commitment to become state champions,” he said. “They did everything I asked of them, and since then, well, we have been pretty successful.”
Indeed you have coach. Since 1997, LaRue County’s record is 368-21. His first seven seasons resulted in 32 wins. This present team has a record of 35-1. Since 1997, LaRue County has won four state dual titles, three Class A state tournament titles, nine regional team titles, had six individual state champions, two high school all-Americans, one honorable mention all-American and one wrestler to go on and become a two time collegiate all-American.
In 2000, Canter was named by Wrestling USA magazine as the National Coach of the Year runner up.
Right now, this accomplishment doesn’t mean much to Gary. He is focused on this team and this season. After the season, it will mean much more to him. I also know that one day he will look back on this moment in time and I think what will mean more to him than anything else is that his son was on the team that gave him his 400th victory.
On Saturday, the Mat Hawks will compete in the regional tournament at Anderson County. Canter will be trying to achieve his 10th regional title in 12 years.
Good luck and congratulations to Coach Canter and the Mat Hawks.
Eddie Paden is assistant coach for the Mat Hawks.