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Stratford wrestling coach honored for 400+ career match wins milestone

Published Friday, January 11, 2019

Stratford wrestling honors Jan. 2019

Pictured from left to right are Hayden Prince, Assistant Coach Nicholas Young, Coach Willie Nearhood and Caleb Capocciamia. (Provided)

You likely won’t find a wrestling coach in the Carolinas that doesn’t know Stratford coach Willie Nearhood, and it’s for good reason.

This year marks his 20th at the helm of the Knights’ wrestling program. The list of accomplishments and milestones is lengthy with multiple all-region wrestling coach selections, north/south coach selections and multiple Region Coach of the Year selections.

Thursday night Coach Nearhood added another accomplishment to the list -- one only 13 other wrestling coaches in South Carolina have EVER accomplished.

400+ team wins

Nearhood was one of four honored by the school before Thursday’s match against James Island, and if he had it his way, the accomplishment may have never been mentioned. It’s not that he isn’t thankful. If you talk to Coach Nearhood, he will tell you that he would have never realized he had coached the team to 400+ wins had he not been told by an assistant.

For a coach sure to be remembered as a legend in Goose Creek and beyond, he’s modest. The spotlight, he says, should be for the kids.

“I’ve never tried to make stuff about me. It has always been about the kids and the program,” Coach Nearhood said. “The kids always come first.”

He says his biggest accomplishment in two decades was not the number of teams wins, tournament victories or all-star coach selections. His proudest moment was when his program received a wrestling room.

For a long time, his team practiced in the cafeteria or in a room/gym off campus. When the team finally got “its place,” Nearhood said, it made a world of difference.

“It helped out the program a lot. Kids felt like they belonged and had a place to be,” he said.

Making sure his team has that sense of belonging is one of Coach Nearhood’s priorities each season. In an area where high school basketball dominates winter sport popularity, Nearhood said it’s hard to pack the gym.

“It has always been a focus to make the kids feel special,” he said.

Honored with Coach Nearhood Thursday were three of his former wrestlers – one of which is now an assistant coach and one former assistant.

Caleb Capocciamia – 150+ career wins

151-18 career record

2002-2003 state champion 152-pound

2003-2004 state runner-up 160-pound

4-time state qualifier

Multiple all-region 7-AAAA selections

2003-2004 North/South All-Star

101 of 151 wins by pin

All-time leader in pins in Stratford program history (101)

Assistant wrestling coach at Stratford 2008-2013

NICHOLAS YOUNG – 150+ career wins

166-30 career record

4-time state qualifier

2011-2012 state runner-up 120-pound

2012-2013  state champion 132-pound

Multiple all-region 7-AAAA selections

2012-2013 North/South All-Star

All-time leader in wins in Stratford program history (166)

Newberry College scholarship wrestler

Newberry College Academic All-American

Hayden Prince – 150+ career wins

151-44 career record

2016-2017 state runner-up 152-pound

2017-2018 state runner-up 170-pound

Multiple all-region 7-AAAA selections

2017-2018 North/South All-Star

All-time leader in takedowns in Stratford program history (309)

2018 Stratford Male Athlete of the Year

Limestone College scholarship wrestler

Coach Willie Nearhood – 400+ career coaching wins

Coached 79 state qualifiers

Coached 39 state placers

Coached seven State Champions

Head coach for 575 varsity wrestling matches

Never been ejected from a wrestling match or tournament

Never had a SC High School League fine/penalty

Coached nine Region 7-AAAA wrestling championship seasons

9-time Region Coach of the Year

2003-2004 N/S All-Star Coach

2018-2019 N/S All-Star Coach


Brian Troutman