Taken To The Mat

owatonna.com

By IAN STAUFFER, istauffer@owatonna.com

Former Owatonna wrestling coach Scot Davis was suspended for two years by the school district and the MSHSL earlier this month for violating state bylaws regarding recruiting athletes.

End of an Era

Scot Davis retired in May with 984 career victories, the most of any high school wrestling coach in history. His retirement came as a surprise to many because he was so close to the milestone 1,000th victory, which he undoubtedly would have reached this season. Now it seems possible that Davis retired in order to avoid suspension from the district and the MSHSL.

Despite the transgressions that led to Davis’ seemingly early retirement, he will be remembered as one of the greatest wrestling coaches in Owatonna and Minnesota history. He leaves behind a legacy of not only winning, but also participation.

With Davis at the helm, the Huskies usually sent at least three dozen wrestlers onto the mat for varsity matches each year. The high participation at the varsity level kept the wrestling room full and competition for spots in the starting lineup strong.

Davis didn’t build the wrestling program at Owatonna, but he certainly promoted its growth and helped dozens of wrestlers win Big Nine, section and state titles and move on to wrestle at the collegiate level.

District, high school league pin suspension on wrestling icon

OWATONNA — Longtime Owatonna wrestling coach Scot Davis retired earlier this year, but he would not have been allowed to coach the Huskies this season and pursue his 1,000th career victory anyway.

At its Oct. 6 board meeting, the Minnesota State High School League Eligibility Committee voted to accept “the school applied one year suspension for the former wrestling head coach and apply an additional one year suspension for all MSHSL sponsored programs.”

Davis is not mentioned by name in the minutes from the meeting, though the document refers to Owatonna’s “former wrestling head coach.” Davis was the head coach at OHS from 1986-2011.

Linda Skrien, the Owatonna School District director of human relations, said that the district conducted an investigation after receiving a complaint alleging possible violation of MSHSL rules. Davis retired from teaching and coaching prior to the completion of that investigation, and Skrien said “no disciplinary action was taken.”

Davis did not return messages left at his home and on his cell phone, and Owatonna Activities Director Ryan Swanson referred all questions to the district office.

According to the MSHSL meeting minutes, the coach was penalized under the high school league’s bylaw 308, undue solicitation of a student. The People’s Press has received emails sent to and from Davis’ personal and school accounts in July and August 2008 to the family of a wrestler in California. There are also email conversations between Davis and several businesses in Owatonna, another family, and Owatonna wrestling supporters.

The emails indicate that Davis talked on the phone and emailed in an attempt to recruit Jake Briggs, a middleweight wrestler that was a three-time state placewinner and four-time state qualifier in California. Briggs is now a sophomore wrestler at Boise State.

According to the emails, Briggs came to Owatonna for a wrestling camp earlier in the summer of 2008, and it is apparent he made an impression on Davis.

“I think Jake has a shot at winning an individual state title,” Davis wrote to the Briggs family. In another, he wrote, “I look forward to having Jake Briggs step on the mat for Owatonna High School this winter, and I’m going to keep that dream alive so it can happen.”

The Briggs family is friends with the Thomas family, formerly of Owatonna. Tyler, Trevor and Tanner Thomas were all part of the wrestling program, and parents Matt and Tami Thomas were heavily involved with the Owatonna Wrestling Association. Matt served as vice president and website coordinator, while Tami was the OWA secretary. In the emails, Davis implies that the Thomas family, which moved from Owatonna to Michigan earlier this year, helped recruit Briggs.

Davis also used connections at Truth Hardware, Viracon, R&K Electric and Four Seasons Electric to help Jack Briggs, Jake’s father, find a job as an electrician. Davis boasted of Owatonna wrestling contacts working all over town, including three former OWA presidents who could help Briggs find a job.

“As I’ve told you, wresting is big here in Owatonna and we have many contacts,” Davis wrote in a message to the Briggs.

Kim Briggs, Jake’s mother, was interested in a position at the Owatonna school district, according to the emails. Davis wrote that he spoke with colleagues at the district in an effort to find more information for Kim.

When the Briggs family hesitated because of moving expenses, Davis wrote that he spoke with Tim Bachtle, the pastor at Destiny Christian Church and “a huge wrestling fan.” Bachtle had a truck driver friend willing to help move, and Davis even mentioned a fundraiser to help defer fuel costs.

In the end, the Briggs family elected to stay in California, and Jake graduated and went on to wrestle at Boise State.

Davis, who was paid $5,926 as head coach in his final season, is not the only southeast Minnesota wrestling coach that has been suspended for recruiting. Last year, Kasson-Mantorville coach Paul Mann was given a one-year suspension and missed the entire 2010-2011 season. Mann is still a teacher in the K-M district, but is not part of the wrestling program, said Aaron Wilke, the K-M activities director.

Davis, who turned 60 this year and reached Minnesota’s Rule of 90 in 2009, unexpectedly retired in May after 40 years of coaching and teaching, including 25 at Owatonna. Davis coached state championship teams in 1998 and 2005 and finished his career with 984 victories, the most of any coach in high school history. It was widely believed Davis would coach at least one more season so he could hit the 1,000 victory milestone.

On the day he retired, Davis said that it would be his job “to just stay away. I think the first year, for sure, I’m not even going to go to a meet.”

Now it is clear Davis does not have an option.