As a wrestler, Cole McCarter was part of Cardinal Newman’s championship dynasty.
As a coach, McCarter hopes to build another one, and he took the first big step in that direction Saturday, leading Cardinal Newman past John Paul II, 67-10, to win the SC Independent Schools Association wrestling championship at Hammond School.
“It is unreal,” McCarter said. “Winning them as a wrestler is pretty special. But I think it is even better doing it as a coach and with a team that you worked so hard with. You take a bunch of guys, some that don’t know any wrestling and build them up and celebrate with them.”
It was the Cards’ 10th state championship, but first since 2018, the year before McCarter, the school’s all-time winningest wrestler, returned to his alma mater as coach.
McCarter won 155 matches as a wrestler, was part of four team championships and won two individual titles before graduating in 2012. The Cards won nine state titles in a 10-year span from 2009-18.
It has taken McCarter a few years to get Cardinal Newman back to its title form. Other Columbia schools, Ben Lippen and Hammond, have taken the perennial top spot, with Ben Lippen winning the past three titles.
But McCarter hopes he has the program back where it was when he was wrestling, citing a strong middle school program to help feed the varsity squad.
“That’s the goal,” McCarter said. “Basically all year, we talked about developing the young guys. This was the first year with a legitimate middle school program and we had twenty-six kids.
“We are developing the young guys so we can sustain and keep building. I hope we can continue to put our best foot forward and keep winning.”
The loss ended John Paul II’s surprising run to its first state final appearance. Cardinal Newman and Hammond were the two top-ranked teams in the latest SCMat SCISA rankings.
The third-ranked Warriors knocked off Hammond, 39-32, in the semifinals on Friday to advance to the title match.
But the Warriors ran into a determined and talented Cardinal Newman squad, which lost to Ben Lippen in last year’s championship.
Ten of Cardinal Newman’s 12 matches were won by pinfall from Aiden Canady, Jason Wagner, Troy Seal, Matthew Hermann, David Rodgers, Braxton Rodgers, Sam Blake, Jack Laird, Eli Lorang and Matthew Soto.
Braxton Rodgers’ pin at 215 pounds sealed it with four matches left.
“Last year was very, very bitter coming in second place and being so close as we were,” Seal said. “We had a goal as soon as we started practice that we were going to be in the state championship and win a state championship. That is what has been preached the whole time. And we got here and did it.”
Cardinal Newman won its other two matches, one via major decision from Jason Cooper Smythe, the other by Mac Thames in the most closely contested match of the day. Thames defeated John Paul II’s Alex Mercer, 11-9, at 157 pounds.
Daniel Snyder (132) and Jack Hannigan (144) won the Warriors’ two matches.