North Carolina sets high goals with fresh coaching staff and expanded RTC

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Oct. 05, 2016, 11:50 a.m. (ET)
Coleman Scott enters his second year as the head coach of UNC 

The nation is starting to take renewed notice of the University of North Carolina’s wrestling program, and that’s exactly what Head Coach Coleman Scott wants.

Scott, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, is entering his second year as the head coach at UNC and his third year overall and is looking to return North Carolina to the elite level of college wrestling.

“We’re in the young phases of our program as a whole, but I believe we have the right guys in the right places,” Scott said. “The pieces of the puzzle are there and we’re just putting it together. We’re on the right track at a fast pace.”

A 2008 NCAA champion for Oklahoma State, Scott was brought on prior to the 2014-15 season as an assistant coach to CD Mock. The next year, the North Carolina athletic department announced Scott as the new head coach as a result of Mock’s retirement.

Joey Ward, a senior for the Tar Heels, has seen a few coaching changes since signing with UNC in 2012 and said he considered transferring when assistant coach Cary Kolat left for the head coaching position at Campbell.

“When Kolat left for Campbell we all got releases to transfer,” Ward said. “I remember talking to a couple of other coaches and started getting full-ride offers. I wasn’t really sure about it. I wanted to see who UNC would bring in as the next assistant, and then I heard Coleman’s name getting thrown around and was like, ‘yeah, I’m staying.’ At the time, he was still training and competing so I was pretty excited to get to go with a light guy and just be a part of that.”

It proved to be a good decision as Ward went on to finish in the round of 12 at NCAAs in 2015 and took home his first All-America honor, finishing seventh in 2016 under the direction of Scott.

In his first year at the helm of the program, Scott, who was simultaneously coaching and training for the Olympic team, led the Tar Heels to a 13-5 dual mark, including two wins against ACC competition, which gave the 2015-16 Tar Heels the best dual-win percentage since 2002.

UNC produced also top-five finishes at the Southern Scuffle and ACC Championships. Seven of his wrestlers received bids to the 2016 NCAA Championships with one achieving All-America honors, Ward.

“Last year was a big year for us. It wasn’t exactly where we wanted to finish, but it was great in a lot of aspects,” Scott said. “You have to keep an open mind and be willing to learn and just know that there’s always room to tweak things in order to win that national title. So I learned a lot last year. It was a crazy year, busy year in all aspects of life, but we’re looking to make an impact this year.”

This summer Scott turned heads shortly after competing at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, announcing the additions of 2013 NCAA champion, two-time World Team member and former foe Tony Ramos as volunteer assistant coach and Olympic and World champion Kenny Monday as head coach of the UNC-Chapel Hill Regional Training Center.

“Two big additions like that in one year doesn’t happen very often,” Scott said. “Tony Ramos brings a whole different aspect of how we’re getting to the end product, which is making national champions. That’s huge for us. I also want to see him achieve his goals of becoming a World or Olympic champ. I think it’s important to build from the top and go down. We want an elite RTC that isn’t just used for recruiting purposes but the main goal is to produce World and Olympic champions. That was the thought behind bringing in Kenny Monday as the RTC coach.”

Many were shocked to hear that Ramos left his alma mater, Iowa, shortly after the Olympic Trials, but the news of Ramos joining the Tar Heels created even more buzz as Scott and Ramos wrestled in the semifinals of the 2016 Olympic Team Trials with Ramos taking a controversial 4-4 decision. Only a short time after, Scott hired Ramos.

The hire also meant that two USA Wrestling giants from two of the best college wrestling programs in history would team up together to potentially develop some of the best lightweights in the nation.

“I think we have the best coaching staff in the country, especially when it comes to lightweight coaches,” Ward said. “We also have Kenny Monday in the room. There’s so much experience and success there. Overall, it’s great for the lighter guys in the room like myself because both Coleman and Tony are always on the mat, and you throw in club coach Josh Kindig and it makes my group of four pretty good.”

Ramos said he’s excited for the future of UNC wrestling as well as the growth of the new RTC.

“I felt like this would be the best place for me to grow as a coach and a competitor,” Ramos said. “The room now has both aspects of the Oklahoma State style and the Iowa style and their mentalities and mindsets. It’s a good way to blend them together to expand my skill set as well as the other guys in the room.

“The RTC is already starting to make an impact with the freestyle scene. People want to know what’s going on down here. We’re starting to get a lot of questions and people who want to come down and train. I think the college programs are starting to recognize what we’re doing down here and that know that there’s something special going on.”

The RTC is even making an immediate impact in the UNC wrestling room as Ward has made plans to pursue international wrestling after his collegiate career.

“I want to continue wrestling for at least one cycle. I’m excited to have full focus on wrestling and not have to worry about school and this and that. Having the RTC here now is great. It’s setup perfectly for me to go right into the international scene,” Ward said.

Until then, Ward leads UNC into his final season at the NCCA level and is joined by All-American and junior Ethan Ramos as the squad is set to face four top-20 teams throughout the year.

As the college season approaches, Scott said that he and every Tar Heel wrestler share the same vision for the 2016-17 seaon and it all starts on Nov. 6 in Blacksburg, Va., at the Hokie Open.

“We’re going to be the best of ourselves every single day,” Scott said. “For some guys, that’s being the best in the country and for others, it’s achieving other personal goals they’ve set. If we continue to work with that attitude, we could be competing for a top-10 or top-five finish. We have to keep getting better every day, and I think we’ll make a lot of progress throughout this year. I think there will be people who are pleasantly surprised with UNC at the end of the year.”