GREENVILLE – It was certainly a good year for the Riverheads wrestling team.
It won The News Leader tournament, was first in the Conference 34/36 championships and ended fifth in state Group 2A competition, one of the highest finishes in years.
Individually, the Gladiators claimed five conference championships, two regional titles and one at the state level.
Leading the team to those accomplishments was fifth-year head coach Scott Swats.
For his successes, he has been selected as The News Leader’s All-City/County wrestling coach of the year.
It seems that Swats has been a part of Riverheads wrestling forever. As a 160- and 171-pounder, he medaled twice at the state tournament before graduating in 1994.
Eight years ago, he became the team’s assistant coach, moving to the head position after a three-year stint.
“He is a coach’s coach,” Riverheads athletic director C.J. Van Devander said “He’s easy to get along with. And as far as wrestling is concerned, he is knowledgeable of the sport.
“Being an alumni, he knows the community better than anyone. He grew up here. And he’s great with the kids. They love him,” Van Devander said.
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Swats was pleased with this year’s squad.
“It was one of our best teams in the last decade,” he said. “Our last fifth-place finish in the state was in 2000, which was 15 years ago.
“The team exceeded my expectations,” he said. “We had a tough conference with Wilson, and we grind that one out.”
Riverheads ended the season with one state champion, Dylan Wade at 152 pounds, and a second-place finisher, Austin Smiley at 160.
Smiley has all the respect in the world for Swats and assistant coach Shalone Goff.
“They can be hard during practice, but afterward, you feel you are best friends,” he said. “You get a very close relationship with them. They are both good at what they do. They make sure you are conditioned.”
Wade echoed the same thoughts.
“Over the past three years, we were the best conditioned wrestlers than any other school in the county,” he said.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to coach them,” Swats said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”