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Return to Glory
Flathead’s new wrestling coach trying to bring success back to former powerhouse
Flathead High School head wrestling coach Scot Davis talks with his team before a recent practice in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
At first glance, Scot Davis looks more like a professor than the most successful high school wrestling coach in history. His glasses seem out of place in the physical world of wrestling. But his knowledge of the sport and his distinguished coaching resume reveal the pedigree that Davis brings to the mat.

After almost 40 years of coaching, a span that includes two national coach of the year awards and the most wins all time, Davis is faced with a sizeable new task this winter. In the offseason Davis took over Flathead’s young and largely inexperienced wrestling program with the goal of restoring the Braves’ luster.

Kalispell has been a wrestling hotbed over the last decade. Flathead won six state championships between 2004-2010. Glacier won its first title last year, extending the streak to nine years in a row that a local team has finished either first or second in the Class AA ranks.

But while Glacier has risen in recent years, Flathead has slumped. The Braves finished fifth two years ago and 10th last year. Matt Owen stepped down as head coach in the spring after four years, leaving a high-profile vacancy for a program at a crossroads.

That’s what attracted Davis.

The former All-American wrestler came out of retirement for the Flathead position despite the downtrodden situation. For the second straight season, the Braves lost a bulk of the previous year’s talent. The team’s lone state champion last year, Larry Francis, graduated, and this year’s roster features nine seniors but only two varsity starters.

Davis began by embarking on a vigorous recruiting mission throughout school, hoping to bolster a program that dipped below 20 athletes last year. He was able to convince more than 40 athletes to join the Braves’ program, which provided the first sign of hope. He also met with former Braves coaches, such as Jeff Thompson, who agreed to join the program in different roles and help with the turnaround.

The black T-shirts that Davis handed out at the beginning of the season said it all: “Return to Glory.”

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and support here. They are genuinely fired up about wrestling,” Davis said of the Flathead community.

The team is also showing signs of excitement despite the uphill challenge ahead.

“I like the enthusiasm with this team,” Davis said. “They’re not getting down on themselves and that’s how we’ve approached it. We’re going to take our lumps. But the kids seem to take it with a good solid approach.”

Nick Iavicoli, one of the team’s few seniors, said Davis has already instilled newfound confidence into the program.

“I was excited to have a new coaching staff and try something different,” Iavicoli said. “It’s turning out great so far. We’ve already turned the program around.”

It starts, as Davis said, with “baby steps.” Instead of conditioning the team has focused on technique. After all, the varsity roster has featured as many as six freshmen and four sophomores in meets this season.

Cole Delau, left, and Wyatt Pehling run through wrestling drills during a recent practice at Flathead High School. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

“Right now we’re working on not getting pinned. We haven’t really been talking about winning,” Davis said.

Davis is approaching his 40th year as a wrestling coach and 1,000 career victory in dual meets, the most ever, according to Wrestling USA Magazine.

He entered the season with a 984-149-4 career coaching record in high school. He is a two-time “National Coach of the Year,” named by the National High School Coaches Association in 1998 and Wrestling USA Magazine in 2007. He was also runner-up in 2006.

Davis, a former head coach at Owatonna High School in Minnesota, remains in the midst of a two-year suspension from prep activities in that state for recruiting violations. The Owatonna school district found Davis had violated the Minnesota State High School League bylaw after exchanging emails in 2008 with a family of a high school wrestler in California. He was given a one-year suspension beginning last October, and the Eligibility Committee of the MSHSL extended the suspension for an additional year.

Davis does not dispute the emails but stands by his “good intentions,” which were to provide information to a family that already planned on moving to Owatonna.

With the past behind him, Davis is focusing on a fresh start.

“It’s been a fun venture so far,” he said. “It’s different having to lose. But I’m looking at it that we’re going to get better and we will start winning more.”
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