PITTSBORO — Next week, Seaforth High is offering a chance for local wrestlers to learn from several former grapplers with Division-I experience.
The clinic, which will be held on July 26-28, is open to wrestlers from grades 7-12 and costs $150 to attend. Running the show will be Seaforth assistant Peter Rogers, current college assistant coach Luke Welch and UNC rising junior Gavin Kane.
Rogers is the father of Hawks’ rising sophomore Gabe Rogers — who finished second in the 2A state tournament at 106 pounds this past February. Before helping build the Seaforth program these past few years, he served as an assistant coach at Purdue. And in his college days he was a two-time NCAA qualifier at Ohio State.
Seaforth head coach Ryan Armstrong said it was his and Rogers’ vision to offer an event like this where wrestlers can come in and improve, regardless of whether or not they live in Chatham County.
"Our vision is to expose wrestling to everybody,” Armstrong said. “We want to get the Chapel Hill kids, the Carrboro kids, the Orange kids, the Northwood kids in. Now you have a safe spot to come into with high-quality coaching. Not only are we building our program, but we're also helping to build programs outside of our school."
Welch, one of the clinicians who will lead the event, won the 2017 USA Wrestling University Nationals at 57 kg (125.7 lbs) and qualified for the NCAA championships in 2018 while competing under Rogers and head coach Tony Ersland at Purdue.
After graduating, Welch earned an assistant coaching position at the University of Mount Olive before winding up at The Citadel, where he currently helps the Cadets’ wrestling team.
Kane, on the other hand, is a two-time NCAA qualifier who was an All-American at 184 pounds during his sophomore season in 2022-23. Kane finished runner-up in his weight class at the 2023 ACC Championships and finished eighth overall at 184 at the NCAA championships.
The rising junior is the latest UNC wrestler with a connection to Seaforth. Last school year, Austin O’Connor interned as an assistant athletic director with the Hawks. At the NCAA championships in Oklahoma this past March, O’Connor won a national title at 157 pounds — his second national championship in as many seasons with the Tar Heels.
Bringing in a strong group of coaches was a point of emphasis for Armstrong as he helped put this clinic together. He hopes hosting regular events like these will bolster the improvement of his own program, as well as help build up programs at surrounding schools inside and outside Pittsboro.
"It's going to make things stronger, and things are going to get more competitive,” Armstrong said. “We're not going to see a lag in development. That's our main goal — giving back to the community. Not everyone can bring in a Citadel coach or a UNC wrestler. We're fortunate that we have the connections we have."
Plenty of Seaforth High wrestlers will learn at the clinic next week, including Gabe Rogers and other top competitors like Josh Miller and Layne Armstrong. This week, Rogers and Miller both competed at the 2023 US Marine Corps USAW 16U Junior National Wrestling Championships in Fargo, N.D.
Armstrong said he regularly encourages his team to train and compete outside of the high school season, and the Hawks have followed that advice. The hope is the focus on preparation and improvement will help Seaforth wrestling continue to add to the solid base it has already built over the past two years.
"They're putting in the work they need to do to get to the next level,” Armstrong said of his wrestlers. “These guys have hopes of going Divison-I. I think 13 of our 14 starters are competing year-round, and a lot of our JV kids are getting the bite and starting to work year-round too. It's been fun to watch."