It’s hard to say goodbye

Published 7:35 pm Sunday, May 26, 2019

By kevin eckleberry

Daily News

For Scooter Weathers, as gratifying as the wins and championships have been, that hasn’t been the most satisfying part of his 20-year tenure as LaGrange High’s head wrestling coach.

“I tell the parents every year, I know everybody talks about wins and losses, and I get it, and I’m all about that, too,” Weathers said. “But my state championship is, if I teach these men how to be great men, great husbands and great fathers one day, then I’ve accomplished more than any state title can offer. The relationships that I’ve built with these guys, I wouldn’t take anything in the world for it.”

For two decades, Weathers has been teaching wrestlers at LaGrange High not only how to excel at the sport, but how to succeed in life as well.

Considering the history he has at LaGrange High, and the hundreds of lives he’s influenced in a positive a way, Weathers predictablly struggled mightily with a decision he had to make recently.

Weathers was offered a job as the head wrestling coach at Catawba High in South Carolina, and he had to decide whether he wanted to pursue that opportunity and in the process be close to his two grown sons and his soon-to-be grand daughter, or remain in a place that means so much to him.

“I prayed and cried, prayed and cried some more, and didn’t know which way to turn,” Weathers said. “I talked to my wife, I talked to my oldest two boys. I got up Saturday morning and said, I’m going to do it, so I did.”

When the decision was made, Weathers said “I felt comfortable. I felt like everything’s OK. I just prayed, God put me where you want me to be. I’m going to do your work wherever you sent me.”

Weathers leaves behind a winning legacy at LaGrange.

Weathers has led numerous teams to area championships, and three of his teams finished fourth or higher in the traditional state tournament.

LaGrange has finished eighth or higher three times in the state duals.

Weather, who has a dual-meet record of 438-158, has coached numerous wrestlers who accomplished big things as individuals.

Weathers has coached 34 area champions, 43 state placers, six state runner-ups, and three state champions. Those three state champions, Archie Dudley, Tony Palmer, and Rick Spivey, were all named all-Americans.

“You don’t realize all the accolades and the things you’ve accomplished until you lay them all out there,” Weathers said. “With that being said, it’s not just me. I’ve had great assistant coaches. There are a whole lot of people that have caused this and been a big part of this. It’s not me. I get it I’m the head coach, and I get the credit, but without them, none of this would be possible.”

When Weathers looks back, there are some wrestlers who made a particularly profound influence on his life.

Sadly, two of those wrestlers have died.

Stefan Smith was a 24-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Army when he was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan.

Another one of Weathers’ most accomplished wrestler, Ricky Spivey, died earlier this year at the age of 32 from cancer.

When he made his decision to leave, Weathers talked to family members of Smith and Spivey.

“The relationships, they’re priceless,” Weathers said. “It gets emotional to talk about, and it’s hard.”

For Weathers, the one indispensable person throughout his career and a healthy portion of his adult life has been his wife Susan.

“My wife has been my rock, my soul, my best friend,” Weathers said. “When I first took this job, I was scared to death. She looked at me and said, honey I’m here. I’ll be your assistant coach. I’ll run your booster club, your concession stand, and keep being a Hospice nurse. And she did. She did everything. She was my right-hand person. Without my wife, I wouldn’t have made it.”

Weathers also coached baseball at LaGrange High, and he’s been a long-time football coach at Gardner Newman where he’s a teacher.

During his time at LaGrange High and Gardner Newman he’s formed life-long friendships.

One of the people Weathers has grown closest to is Jon Powell, who he coached with on the LaGrange baseball team.

“I’ve leaned on coach Powell a lot the past few years,” Weathers said. “We’ve always been close, but we’ve gotten a lot closer. Coach Powell is special to me. I’ve called him for advice. I’ve leaned on him, and he’s always been there for me when I needed some advice. He helped me through this decision.”

Weathers also appreciates the support of Derek Pitts, the principal at Gardner Newman.

“He’s been right there guiding me through this,” Weathers said. “He’s the best principal we’ve ever had at Gardner Newman, bar none.”

While LaGrange will also hold a special place in Weathers’ heart, he’s not looking back.

He’s eager to take on the challenging of building a program from scratch, since the 2019-2020 school year will be the first for Catawba High.

“I’m the first wrestling coach at that school,” Weathers said. “I get to start with nine, 10th and 11th-graders. There are no seniors. It’s exciting.”