Scott Moore has helped carry on Lock Haven's rich wrestling tradition since he took over as the program's 11th head wrestling coach in 2013. The Bald Eagles won back-to-back conference championships in 2018 and 2019 and finished in the top 20 at the NCAAs both seasons. Moore has been a finalist for national coach of the year multiple times, earned EWL Coach of the Year and PSAC Coach of the Year honors in 2018 and 2019.
As a competitor, Moore was a two-time All-American at Penn State and Virginia. In 2004, placed third at the NCAAs while at Virginia, finishing the season with a 51-1 record and 34 pins.
MatBoss caught up with Moore and talked to him about last season, this season's team, women's wrestling, building a fanbase, coaching staff and what fans can expect to see from the Bald Eagles in 2021-22.
You obviously dealt with a lot of adversity last year. You didn't compete during the regular season. What did you learn about yourself as a coach through COVID?
Moore: I think the biggest thing is the idea that you can't skip the process to become successful as far as the preseason, strength training, all the little drill sessions and doing all those little things that you do throughout the length of a regular season. Trying to compact that into two weeks is impossible. So all those little things, the skill building, the character building, all the mindset meetings and just the little things that you focus on over 17 or 18 weeks are really important to the overall product to get guys to a certain level that you need to get to at a conference tournament, especially a MAC tournament which is a 14-team tournament. After that tournament was over, looking back, you can't skip the steps that it takes to prepare for a big tournament like that, a national qualifier event that everybody's at the top of their game. We've had a ton of success in the postseason and peaking and preparing. We've had guys do very well leading up to that tournament. But last year, with very minimal time training in the room with restricted guidelines, it was a different circumstance.
Obviously, it's been a year and a half since the team has competed. How excited are your wrestlers to finally be able to get out there and see some real competition?
Moore: I think they're real excited. We had our intersquad match, but that's also you wrestling the same guy every day. So the practice, the energy in the room, it's much different from last year. The fun part is having such a young team and so many younger guys, newcomers and transfers. As a coach, you enjoy watching guys compete and develop and find themselves really. Competition is the only way to find yourself. Finding out whether you put the time in, if you did the things right, if you prepared properly. So we're excited to see the guys compete. I think they're excited to see where they're at. I think they believe in their training, their coaching, and they're just ready to get the season started and make the adjustments as needed as we go.
Obviously, your program had a lot of momentum after the 2019 season. You won your second straight conference title and finished in the top 20 at the NCAAs for the second straight. Then COVID came and wiped out the national tournament in 2020 and basically wiped out last season. What's it going to take to get that momentum back?
Moore: I think just some internal leadership. We have a younger team, but we do have a couple returners. Luke Werner, former national qualifier; Ben Barton, who is a transfer. He's a leader in the room and some other guys that grayshirted last year. They are blue chip recruits that have the ability to reach the next level pretty quickly. So I think it's just putting the work in, having some success and then building that team environment again. It was hard without being able to do a lot and then obviously we had a lot of seniors during the year that the national tournament was canceled. It was sort of like they had built up to that four or five years and then didn't get rewarded for it, not being able to go compete at the national tournament, not having a team banquet, sort of being eliminated from team activities. So I think it's just getting rolling again. We do a good job of preparing our guys, but you can't substitute in that team aspect of competing and rooting for each other, dual meet, big match atmosphere that we were able to do at the fieldhouse. That starts to build that momentum and positive confidence in each guy. So we're excited to see who can step it up and who can turn the corner. We obviously believe that it's going to happen, but it'll be a process. It won't happen overnight.
I wanted to ask you about a few weight classes and wrestlers on your team. You have two very accomplished 125 pounders. Luke Werner has been a national qualifier. Anthony Noto was a four-time New York state champion, transfer from NC State. Noto edged Werner in the Crimson & White intrasquad. How are you managing that situation and determining who starts?
Moore: Right now Luke is going to be our starter and Anthony is going to redshirt. With the COVID season last year he still has a redshirt to burn. So based on some academic situations we're making sure that Luke has the most time to focus and he's going to be doing his student-teaching next year. So it just makes sense for him to be able to put everything into competing this year and put 100% focus into it. With Anthony pushing him in the room, the competition will be good. Luke sometimes starts off slow. If you look at his track record, the first tournament he kind of struggles and then once he gets rolling, he's very good. Very dangerous, explosive, scores a ton of points, really good on top. So yeah, Luke's going to start. Anthony is going to back him up, travel, redshirt but compete unattached and then if we need to pull him in, we will.
Ben Barton transferred to your program from Campbell at 157 pounds. He is a multiple-time national qualifier. What have you seen from him since he came to your program?
Moore: Just maturity. Really a guy who's driven, doesn't complain, works hard, shows up every day and just has that maturity. Watching him wrestle at practice, he's wrestled enough matches, he has that experience in a good room with good coaches. That's something that we will be lacking going into the year with a younger group. So it's nice to have somebody that you know that you're going to get that same effort every single day at practice. In competition, we expect the same thing out of him. He just has a good head on his shoulder. He's really mature. He's a team player and someone that we think that is going to do very well this year and make a run to the nationals.
At 174 pounds, you have freshman Tyler Stoltzfus, who was a Pennsylvania state champion, Ironman and Powerade champion, blue chip recruit. How has he looked? And what are your expectations for him?
Moore: He's looked good. He's a tough kid. He's your typical PA, blue collar, really gritty, solid on top. I think he is a guy that he can turn pretty much anybody in the country on any given day. But just somebody who's going to be consistent in his mindset and a competitor. He hates to lose and he takes it very seriously. He does everything right. Lives the lifestyle and puts the work in the room. So he's going to make the gains as quickly as anybody based on his lifestyle and his expectations he has for himself. He came to college to wrestle. Obviously, he's a student, but he'll say it, he came to college to be an NCAA champion, to be an All-American. So we're excited for him. I think he'll run up against some guys that maybe are better athletes, and you'll have to find a way to slow him down and get to his positions. But ultimately he's going to be there at the final whistle scrapping for every point. So I think the crowd is going like him and I also think that he's just going to wear guys out; very physical and just mature beyond his years. Only being technically a freshman this year, was grey shirting last year, he's just very mature in his process.
You held your Crimson & White intrasquad a few weeks ago. You compete in tournaments all through November, with your first dual meet taking place Dec. 2 against Michigan State. How do you determine your starting lineup?
Moore: I always tell guys that every day is a wrestle-off. So you have to do an intersquad. You continue to do matches in the room. But open tournaments are a big part of it. How do you compete? How do you recover? How do you progress from a loss or from a good win? What's your attitude every day? I would say, maybe half the weights are set, but with four tournaments, that should be 12 or 15 matches where we get to see guys wrestle. Who can withstand wrestling 4-5 matches in a day? And I know that doesn't dictate as far as the dual meet setting, but it's about reliability and durability. I think most Division I coaches will tell you that. Who's going to be reliable? Who's going to be durable? Who's going to get tough in a big-time match against a Big Ten opponent. So that's sort of where we're at. I'm a big believer in things will work out if you put the formula in front of them and you give them the opportunities, then they'll get to figure out who's going to be the starter.
Lock Haven has been at the forefront of women's wrestling, going back to the early 2000s. Sara McMann wrestled with the team, as did Jenny Wong, Erin Vandiver. They competed unattached. Lock Haven now has its own wrestling program, which was started in 2019. Ronnie Perry, one of your assistants, serves as the head coach of the women's team. Do the men's and women's programs work together as one? How is the training structured between the two teams?
Moore: They're very ingrained together, but they do have some separate practices. Obviously, they're freestyle and we're folkstyle, so that's got to be a separation. But they practice with us probably twice a week. They'll have a couple of the girls come into a regular practice. We've lifted together. So we try to make it a uniform program. But at the same time, he'll run three extra practices a week focused just on freestyle technique alone. But they are tough. They work hard. They train hard. I believe that having them around creates a good atmosphere for our guys. Some of our younger guys do jump in and wrestle with some of the girls as well and try to push them and give them just different looks. So being the first year that they're officially competing, it's going to be fun to follow them. They have some really talented girls on the team. Some pretty big-name recruits coming in. It's just getting started with recruiting, developing and building the program. So we're happy to be kind of at the forefront of that and just to be able to expose the wrestling community, Central PA, Matt Town USA, to women's wrestling is important. This is a perfect place to do it. I think we're going to have a lot of success this season and beyond.
Sara McMann was recently inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. What does that mean to your program to have her in the Hall of Fame?
Moore: She's a huge advocate of women's wrestling, having competed here and bringing back an Olympic medal, one of the first females ever to do it. Her involvement in the sport has grown and we've reached out to her and talked to her several times and seen her at some different events. So I think that's great. That's sort of a nice setting for us to be able to utilize mentors that have done it here at Lock Haven but also have connections within our program. She was recently inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. I think she's just a great ambassador for the sport of wrestling and for our program.
You competed against Sara in college at the Penn State Open. What do you remember about wrestling against her?
Moore: My memory of wrestling her at the Penn State Open, she was tough. She had beaten a Lehigh wrestler first round and I wrestled her second round. Just strong, competitive, great technician. She still continues to compete to this day in MMA. So somebody who is just very passionate about the fitness of her athletes and what she's doing to promote the sport.
Lock Haven has consistently been among the top programs for attendance. Three straight years in the top 25 for attendance following the 2020 season. What's been the key to getting so many fans in the stands at Lock Haven?
Moore: It's a community engagement. We do a lot of events locally, but we promote it and we push for different events that the alumni and the community is involved with. Through youth events through different raffles, fundraisers, golf outings, usually grassroot stuff that you that you build up a fan base. So that's been a big part of it. The history of our program speaks for itself … 45 Division I All-Americans and just a ton of successful wrestlers and educators. So we try to get as many of those guys involved, honoring them through Hall of Fames, through different organizations. So constant communication, a lot of events. For our dual meets we have a pretty good setting, a good atmosphere. We make it fun. We make it exciting. We try to make every dual meet some sort of an event for students because if we can draw students, that's just an added bonus. But it doesn't hurt to be in Central PA where you have just a ton of quality wrestling. Penn State is right up the road. So a lot of wrestling fans support wrestling, not just a certain university. So we're fortunate to be in a good area that's populated with an educated wrestling base. But ultimately, I think winning, good customer service, your follow up with your season tickets holders and just the people that affect your program, and then there's not a whole lot to do in the winter in Central PA, so I think that helps us.
It seems like you have a lot of continuity on your coaching staff. Nate Carr Jr, Rob Weikel and Ronnie Perry have been with you for several years … obviously in different capacities. How important is having that continuity to what you're trying to do with the program?
Moore: Yes, it's been nice. I think that's an important part of any successful program, having coaches that stick around, that create a system of checks and balances that every year you know what's going to happen, and you know what to expect, and you can sort of delegate the things that need to be delegated, and know that they're going to get done. Between all of them, they've been here between three and five years apiece. Coach Weikel started off as a volunteer and he came on as an assistant and he's back as a volunteer now. Obviously, Coach Perry wrestled here. So having someone who's been successful in our system now on staff is also important to use as a role model, as an example. And then Coach Carr is in his sixth year. So we've been able to pull a lot of things together and just work tightly and as a team to function at a high level. And there's a lot that goes into running a small program. So it's important to have hard-working, dedicated, loyal coaches that are committed to that process. Not just the easy stuff, but the tough things too, the things that you got to get down and dirty and work some long hours for. So those guys have been part of the journey. I certainly appreciate all they've done.
Lastly, you have a mix of some talented newcomers and some solid veterans returning. What kind of team can fans expect to see when they watch Lock Haven?
Moore: That's a great question. As a coach, we expect our guys to go out and just fight, battle hard. We know that if we go out and wrestle hard for the whole match and create opportunities to score and put pressure on our opponents that we're going to be in every match. We just want to create that environment that our guy is not giving up. He's fighting to the finish. He's aggressive. He's physical but he has ways to win matches. You kind of have a certain skill set. We've been good with finding guys that find a skill set, whether it's a scrambling skill set, strong top wrestling. Kyle Shoop came out of high school and was one of the best top wrestlers in the country, but he developed his system for college. So having every guy have some something special, some sort of skill set that gets them over the top. Sometimes that's conditioning, mental toughness, being able to scramble, just the things that are going to make a difference in big matches. That's really what we promote within our younger guys. Find something that's going to separate you from the rest of the guys in the country. But as far as just the team morale and what to expect showing up, guys that are just committed to the program that are busting their butt and understand that it's a paid in attendance. They got to put a show on and the expectations are high. The history of our program has set the tone and it's their job to carry the torch forward.