IBERIA – Whenever Scott Carr and his family visit nearby relatives, the conversation invariably steers to wrestling.
It’s non-stop, which would also describe the success of Carr’s Northmor wrestling team in recent weeks. Perennially a small school power in north central Ohio, the Knights have strung together titles in the Sally George Invitational, the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Championships and the Division III sectional tournament heading into this weekend’s district action at Coshocton.
Two of the Knights’ nine district qualifiers are brothers Jake and Sam Neer, who also happen to be siblings of Carr’s wife Hannah.
A coach having brothers-in-law in his lineup is an unusual dynamic and makes for some interesting family get-togethers, particularly around the holidays when the food is extra tempting and maintaining competitive weight can be extra challenging.
Imagine the head coach sitting across the table giving you the evil eye as you reach for an extra slice of pumpkin pie or cup of egg nog.
“When they see my wife and I heading up their long driveway, they’re probably hiding the cookies and putting the pizza back in the oven,” Carr said. “It’s fun, though. My wife and mother-in-law (Denise) deserve a medal for what they go through from Thanksgiving to Easter.”
Jake, a sophomore 106-pounder, joked about “getting out the apples” when they know their brother-in-law is showing up, but admits it’s not that bad.
“Scott usually says he’s not our weight-cutting coach and that he doesn’t care how we lose the weight,” Jake said. “He just wants us to work hard.”
Even though Carr is 41 and the Neers are 17 (Sam) and 15 (Jake), the boys admit their relationship with their coach is more brotherly than father-son.
“He’s come out on the mat a couple of times, trying to prove he’s better than us,” said Sam, a senior 145-pounder. “I’ll give him that. He’s still pretty good … for being so old.”
That’s the kind of wisecrack Jake usually makes to Carr’s face before he takes off running. But he doesn’t get very far.
“He’s still pretty fast for how big he is,” Jake said.
Carr says, if anything, he’s tougher on the Neers than the rest of Northmor’s wrestlers. That’s typically what you hear from parents who coach their sons or daughters.
“My father-in-law (Doug Neer) has given me his blessing to do whatever it takes to get the most out of them, whether it’s running them or screaming at them,” Carr said. “They look at me as their older brother. If they mouth off, they know they’re going to get it. They choose their battles.”
Carr also coached two older Neer brothers. Caleb was a two-time state qualifier and state medalist as a senior and Jed was a state alternate. There are eight Neer children, ranging in age from 33 to 15. Jake is the baby.
“Sometimes you’ll hear the boys say they don’t get Sunday off like the rest of the kids on the team because our family gets together most Sunday afternoons,” said Doug Neer, who wrestled for Barry Ferguson at Ashland High School in the early 1970s. “Scott balances things pretty well. I’m impressed. He’s a tough coach, but I’ve been watching him a long time and seen him get his heart wrapped around the boys because they’re family.”
If one or both of the Neers make it to the state tournament in Columbus, it will mark the 14th time a family member has made it that far in a sport.
“We’re really fortunate,” Doug Neer said.
Alyssa Neer made it to state four times in cross country and twice in track. Jed went three times in cross country and twice in track. Caleb, as mentioned earlier, was a two-time qualifier in wrestling.
Sam has other goals in mind first.
“We’ve never had a district champion team (at Northmor),” he said. “We’ve been runner-up four times. We’re constantly reminded we can be the first to do it.”
Jake and Sam are two of six Northmor wrestlers with 30 or more wins. Jake is 32-10 at 106, freshman Conan Becker is 31-6 at 120, junior Jake Farley is 35-7 at 138, Sam is 32-8 at 145, senior 2014 state qualifier Kyle Johnson is 34-3 at 182 and senior Lane Foster is 32-7 at 195.
Becker, Farley and Johnson were sectional champs, while freshman Aaron Kitts (25-14 at 113), Sam and Foster were runners-up. Jake placed third.
Carr believes last week’s sectional team championship was the first since 2011, when lightweight Tyler Heminger won a state title for the Knights — putting him in an elite club at the school that includes current UFC fighter C.B. Dollaway, Brian Baldridge and Tyler Beck.
“I’ve said all along that this was one of our best teams, top to bottom, in a long time,” said Carr, in his seventh season at the helm. We may not have a wrestler that people know state-wide, but we’re pretty solid from 106 to heavyweight.
“People are always going to bring their A game against Northmor, especially at districts. So we have to be ready. If you have a bad weekend now, and you’re a senior, your season is over.”
DISTRICT TOURNAMENT DATA
•Dates: Friday and Saturday
•Top four placers at each weight at each meet advance to the state meet in Columbus.
•Division I at Cleveland State — Area teams competing: Ashland, Mansfield Senior. Sectional champs: 170 Jesse Palser, Mansfield Senior; 195 Tristen Weirich, Ashland; 220 Brandon Myers, Mansfield Senior.
•Division II at Mansfield Senior — Area teams competing: Clear Fork, Galion, Lexington, Madison, Ontario, Shelby. Sectional champs: 126 LeConte Merrell, Madison; 132 Brandon Leynaud, Lexington; 138 Drew Kinzel, Clear Fork; 145, Jon Watkins, Lexington; 145 Drake Barnett, Galion; 182 Drew Kasper, Lexington; 195, Bailey Faust, Lexington; 285 Nate Temple, Lexington; 285 Deaken McCoy, Galion
•Division III at Fostoria — Area teams competing: Buckeye Central, Bucyrus, Crestview, Plymouth, South Central, Willard. Sectional champs: 126 Ryan Hillman, Bucyrus; 220 Camron Conway, South Central.
•Division III at Coshocton — Area teams competing: Fredericktown, Northmor, Mount Gilead. Sectional champs: 120 Conan Becker, Northmor; 126 Carson Mills, Fredericktown; 195 Milan Pozderac, Fredericktown; 138 Jake Farley, Northmor; 182 Kyle Johnson, Northmor
•Division III at Garfield Heights — Area teams competing: Hillsdale, Loudonville, Mapleton. Sectional champs: 152, Korey Kowatch, Mapleton.