Longtime Mat Hawk head coach Gary Canter will coach his last home wrestling match tonight.
An era ends as Canter, the founder of the LCHS wrestling program, retires after this season. His success is unparalleled in LaRue County’s sports programs.
Canter began the program in 1990. Since 1998, his teams have not finished lower than 10th at the State Wrestling Championship. They’ve won three Class A (small school) championships.
They’ve won five State Duals – a prestigious tournament that features the top teams from each Region – and 12 regional team championships.
Two of Canter’s teams earned national recognition, finishing in the top-10 nationally in two categories.
The 2001 team ranks fifth all time nationally in takedowns and the 2006 team ranks seventh nationally in pins.
In 2000, Canter was named runner-up National Coach of the Year. Eleven of his wrestlers have been ranked in the top-25 nationally during their careers at LaRue County. The 1999 team finished the season ranked 10th in the entire mid-eastern region of the United States.
Canter has had 73 wrestlers to finish as state medalists. In football, this would be equal to being named as an All-State athlete.
Eight wrestlers have won individual state championships and in 2003, Scott Cooper was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the state tournament, an honor equal to Mr. Basketball for Kentucky.
Two grapplers have been named All-American: Jason Detre in 1999; and Cooper in 2003. Todd Allen was an honorable mention All-American in 2004. Allen went on to wrestle at the college level and was an NAIA All-American two times.
Canter’s program was not an overnight success. From 1990 to 1997, his record was 32-62 for a 34 percent winning percentage.
In 1998, his persistence paid off as his team turned a corner, finishing as regional runners-up, eighth in the state at the State Tournament and fourth at State Duals.
Canter, who refers to 1998 as a “swing year,” hasn’t looked back. Since that year, his record has been 452-37 for a winning percentage of 94 percent. Overall, his record is 475-93. Canter goes for his 476th win tonight against Oldham County.
The dual begins at 6 p.m. with JV matches; varsity begins immediately after.
While this is Canter’s last home meet, as has been the case with him his entire coaching career, his emphasis is on his team and his wrestlers.
In an email, responding to a request for information about the evening, Gary asked, “Any article about the match on Wednesday? I know our administration is offering free admission to all students. Senior night ... State champion night ... we need to drum this one up.”
Mat Hawk senior night
Canter’s last crop of seniors, including his son Caleb, known affectionately as “Bubba” to a generation of Mat Hawks and their families, will be honored tonight.
Other seniors are statisticians Lauren Meredith and Kara Paden, and wrestlers Spencer Hines, Jared Whitlock, Nathan Bell, B.J. Carman and Tanner Mouser.
A banner will honor all past state champions.
It will be a night of paying honor and homage to many.
But tonight, one person stands above all others in receiving special honor and homage. Tonight at the LaRue County high school gymnasium, start time at 6 p.m., an end to an era will take place.
Tonight, head coach Gary Canter will coach the final home dual meet of his career.