xml:space="preserve">
South Carroll's Bryan Hamper coaches his wrestlers during their Class 2A-1A West regional dual semifinal match in Middletown Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.
South Carroll's Bryan Hamper coaches his wrestlers during their Class 2A-1A West regional dual semifinal match in Middletown Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Dylan Slagle / Staff Photo)

When the South Carroll wrestling team clashes with Middletown to open the season on Dec. 6, a new coach will be stalking the sidelines for the Cavaliers.

Sykesville resident Matt Thomas, a former high school and college wrestler, is replacing Bryan Hamper, the reigning Times Coach of the Year.

Advertisement

Thomas is inheriting one heck of a program from Hamper, who said he is leaving his post to spend more time with his four sons.

South Carroll has won the past four Class 2A-1A state championships.

Hamper’s credentials are more than impressive. He amassed a dual-meet record of 185-41 in nine seasons, guided SC to eight county championships, and had 14 wrestlers that won state titles.

Hamper said he’ll do what he can to ease the transition with a new coach taking over.

“I will be there to help him from an administrative perspective, and be a friend of the program,” Hamper said. “We’re not going to skip a beat. Matt will definitely be able to have success because of what he brings to the table and how he relates to the kids. He commands respect.”

South Carroll's Travis Crawford, shown here at the 2A-1A West tourney, won a state championship last winter.
South Carroll's Travis Crawford, shown here at the 2A-1A West tourney, won a state championship last winter. (Bill Ryan / For the Carroll County Times)

Hamper was convinced that Thomas, a 2011 graduate of Northern Garrett, was a good fit, because he’s known him since he wrestled in high school.

Thomas has never been a head coach before, but he worked as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach at Mountain Ridge High for the 2014-15 season.

And Thomas had an outstanding high school career.

He finished his career with a 108-17 record, won three county championships, placed second in the state as a junior, wrestling at 130 pounds, and the following year took third in the state at 140.

“Bryan followed me in high school and we would talk at different tournaments,” said Thomas, who wrestled at Division II West Liberty University in West Virginia. “We would even talk in the off-season. He would check in with me to see how everything was going. In college it was the same thing.

“He would say, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ He’s a great guy. It’s good having him in the room all the time.”

Hamper said it made his departure a lot smoother knowing that he had someone like Thomas to run the program. Hamper said he considers Thomas to be the ideal fit.

“He will be a great asset to South Carroll,” Hamper said. “He wrestled at a high level. … He’s been around the sport at the highest level for a while. He meshed really well with our guys in our offseason club program.”

“Right away, he connected with the athletes. The timing of his arrival was just perfect.”

Advertisement

Thomas said he understands the challenge in following a successful coach like Hamper. But he’s confident the Cavaliers will continue to make runs at championships.

“You can’t be scared,” Thomas said of replacing Hamper. “You have to come in and bring what you have to the table. They have won four championships in a row. You want to make it a fifth, sixth, and seventh.”

South Carroll likely possesses the talent to be a prime contender for titles. They return state champion Travis Crawford (120), state runners-up Tyler Harbison (145) and Dakota Bowers (126), along with sixth-place state finisher Cam Werner (132).

“We have a good group of kids, and they are really working hard,” Thomas said.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement