Scott Taylor’s eyes sparkle as he talks about the future of Polk County’s wrestling program, thinking not just about its present, but what could take place years ahead.
Clearly, Polk County’s new head wrestling coach hopes to bring some long-term stability to a position that has had its share of turnover in recent years.
Taylor was approved earlier this year to take over the Wolverine program, replacing Adam Dedmon, who left after two seasons to accept an administrative position in Cleveland County.
Of late an assistant coach at Hendersonville, Taylor believes he has found an ideal situation to continue his coaching career.
“What interested me the most was a school in a county with just one high school,” he said. “A little bit smaller, but the administration, the athletic department, really care about wrestling, and that’s a little bit of an oddity in wrestling.
“I also had a good recommendation through Norman Osteen (founder of the famed Strong and Courageous youth program), who is (PCHS Principal) Dr. (Brandon) Schweitzer’s uncle, and he said you need to take that job. It’s a really good atmosphere, it’s a really good family and from what I can tell, Polk is pretty interested in doing well with their kids. So, I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Taylor wrestled at East Henderson and was a member of the school’s first state championship team in addition to competing with Strong and Courageous. He moved away from the sport after high school, but got interested in Brazilian jiu-jitsu a few years ago, which in turn helped rekindle his wrestling passion.
“Three or four years ago I had an opportunity to coach at Hendersonville High School with a friend of mine that I went to school at East with, and so we started coaching, started making some progress and changing things and it really interested me again in wrestling,” Taylor said.
“So I started helping with some club stuff. I started doing off-season tournaments. I got to go to Iowa for preseason nationals amd coach kids there, seeing 1500 kids wrestle. Actually when I was on an Iowa trip was when Osteen and Dr. Schweitzer talked and they said hey, we think you might be a good fit down here. And I love it so far.”
Dedmon helped preside over a renaissance of wrestling in Polk County. He worked with Russell Wilson to form the Wolverine Wrestling Club, a group that grew to more than 20 wrestlers before the coronavirus pandemic, and with Jerry Cox to help reinvigorate Polk County Middle’s program, which had its best season in years in 2019-2020 and produced a two-time conference champion in Topher Pearson as well as a school-record 15 qualifiers for the Blue Ridge Conference Tournament.
Polk County placed in a tie for eighth in the team standings at the 2020 1A state tourney, the program’s best showing in a decade, and had four wrestlers notch top-six finishes. The Wolverines also had three Western Highlands Conference tournament champions, ending a title-less streak of eight years, and finished third overall at the tourney.
Taylor hopes to see that success continue when the Wolverines finally hit the mat in April for their delayed season.
“These kids are hungry, and they’re grateful to have a season, too,” he said. “I think we’ve got some potential. We’re still a fairly young team, but I’d like to be here for a few years and see if we can’t make something happen.
“I think that us moving to 2A next year is going to be a step, but I think it’s a good step. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”
Taylor has been conducting offseason skill development and weight training sessions with wrestlers in Polk’s program. On Tuesday, he had six wrestlers lifting weights during an optional workout.
“The kids like me, for some reason,” Taylor said with a grin. “I’ve coached some of them in the offseason, and I think they legitimately believe I can help them out. We had a meeting here when they announced that I was going to be the coach, and I said, ‘Hey guys, I’m not here to teach you every move under the sun, but we’re going to do four or five of them and we’re going to do them better than anybody there is.’ I said we can go to basics and wrestle with anybody. We’re just going to do it better.”
Taylor has been putting the finishing touches on his schedule for this season as well as talking and planning with Wilson and Cox. He sees those programs as the future of Polk County’s program, and it’s a future he’s eager to see unfold.
“I know Russell and I know Jerry. They’re doing the right things,” Taylor said. “So the the youth program, we try to get kids interested in wrestling and having fun. At the middle school program, we try to teach them they can have fun, and then start being a little more competitive in what they’re doing.
“And at the high school program, I like to build on the same thing and see if we can’t turn those competitors into winners. But a lot of it does start with the youth program, and I’ve got good support there, too. Not many coaches got what I got today. It’s good, and it’s going to be really good.”