Getting to know the quiet leader of the Hillsboro Wrestling team

Until their recent trip to state with multiple athletes this year, not a lot of people knew much about the Hillsboro/Canton-Galva Wrestling team. And probably even fewer know their quiet leader, Scott O’Hare, even though he has been coaching and teaching at Hillsboro High School for 24 years now.

O’Hare is a strong and steady presence in the wrestling program, but his constant goal is to share his passion for the sport and let his athletes see how valuable it can be for the development of them in mind and body rather than to draw attention to himself and how much he knows.

And he knows quite a bit.

O’Hare started wrestling at the age of five and continued all through high school. He went on to wrestle at the college level until he started having back issues that took him out of competitive wrestling.

“It was a big part of who I was and what I wanted to do. When I got to the point where doctors told me that I couldn’t do it anymore, it was tough,” said O’Hare.

He went to Central Missouri State University to wrestle, but when he suffered his injury and couldn’t wrestle anymore, he didn’t feel like paying out of state tuition and being so far away from family. He transferred to Hays to finish his degree and also got an opportunity to coach wrestling for two years at a high school just down the road.

“I had not done any coaching, but I was already in a program for secondary education so I was planning to go into coaching and teaching. By the time I had gotten to college I had already planned to be a high school teacher and coach. So the injury allowed me to get started on the coaching a little bit sooner,” said O’Hare. “In hindsight, it worked out really well, and I was able to gain some really good experience doing what I hoped to be doing down the road.”

After graduation, he moved to Hillsboro and began teaching and coaching there under Corey Burton who was instrumental in starting the wrestling program.

“I have been here ever since. I am finishing up my 24th year now. It has been a good fit,” said O’Hare.

He has always taught freshman Physical Science and senior Physics with other classes migrated in and out. But all have been science or technology and engineering related. O’Hare has also coached other sports as well included golf and football.

And coaching has taught him quite a bit over the years.

“There was a time in my younger years where I measured my level of success against the level of success of the teams I coached and at the time I put more emphasis on the wins and losses. And that’s by no means to say I don’t want to have individuals and teams that win, but I guess my focus more about the process and the journey that hopefully leads to more wins. Especially as we talk about wrestling, in my opinion, it’s one of the toughest sports a young person can be involved in, both physically and mentally. The entire focus is on winning and losing and if the wins don’t come right away, it’s a grind. It’s hard on people. So that’s where I’ve tried to take my own philosophy and put it into the kid that the wins will come as long as we are doing what we need to do to get there,” said O’Hare.

Coach O’Hare is a very understanding man. As being one of the first women that he has coached, he was understanding and knew what my strengths and weaknesses are. He has this passion that he shows for each and every wrestler, man or woman, which makes him an outstanding coach,” said Taryn Nordstrom, a senior at Canton-Galva (the school combines to wrestle with Hillsboro).

This past season

Hillsboro wrestling has a history of being successful, but it has been on a downslope for several years. However, this past year, the team has really begun to turn things around and look like it used to. O’Hare offers a few reasons for this.

“A big part of this has been getting numbers back up, just having more kids involved and having more and better competition in the wrestling room. We have a group of our kids who have come up in our program together in our Hillsboro wrestling club. Obviously that is a valuable experience. They’ve been around the sport and had the opportunity to learn a lot of the basics so we can start to progress on to advanced things. We can push them a little bit more because they know how to wrestle,” said O’Hare.

He also sees this as a plus because it means the families have been around as well for years and they become big supporters of the wrestling program.

“This is huge in this sport in my opinion. Not to say it isn’t in every sport, but in wrestling, if you have families who understand a little bit of what’s going on through the course of the season and can support you through that, it sure makes it all more enjoyable,” he said.

O’Hare said he hopes that parents see that they can trust him with their children to follow through in what he preaches.

“I hope they see it’s not just about winning and losing but the attempt to try to help young men and women to try to become more mature men and women in the way they behave, they way they compete, the way they carry themselves….so I guess letting them see the fact that I am real in who I am and I’m trying to use this sport as an avenue to help people grow into good human beings and not just using them as a means to win championships,” O’Hare said.

And the parents do see that.

Coach O’Hare has been an influential figure in my children’s lives as a coach, teacher, mentor and friend. I feel privileged to have such a knowledgeable and compassionate teacher leading my children on to be better students, athletes and men of character. He is passionate about wrestling as a test of integrity and pushing physical limits. Coach O’Hare is always in your corner encouraging and pushing for the best you can be,” said Mark and Karrie Rathbone, whose 16-year-old son Tristan wrestled at State under O’Hare.

Brian Rogers, who has had three boys wrestle for O’Hare added, “He’s all about attitude and effort, he does a really good job of getting kids to achieve that. His long-range goal with every kid he deals with is to make them a better person, on and off the mat. He’s not looking for a quick success he believes in each kid and truly wants the best for them long term. He’s vested in each of them personally.”

Fans also really turned up this year to support the wrestlers while other years only family seemed to be in the stands. O’Hare credits his athletes for the change in fan turnout.

“I thought our wrestlers did an outstanding job of being leaders for the student section for the basketball games and I think that was reciprocated. I think the basketball players wanted to come out and do that for the wrestlers,” said O’Hare.“To me it was amazing to see because I grew up in western Kansas where wrestling is huge. I mean our matches looked like basketball games do here. It was exciting for my kids to get to experience that this year.”

O’Hare also credits his two assistant coaches, Tyson Reimer and Tagen Lambotte, for the success of the past season. In fact, he said he has always relied a lot on his assistant coaches.

“I just want to give props to those individuals who have come in and been a part of our program throughout the years. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been extremely blessed by the people I’ve been able to have come in and work under me as assistant coach. I’ve had a really long list of phenomenal individuals from Tabor students to a few others in the community. They are now some of my closest friends. While I like to believe they have learned stuff from me, I can no doubt attest that I have learned more from them,” said O’Hare.

It sounds like O’Hare has been just as instrumental to those he has worked with from students to parents to coaches.

Danielle Rogers, mom of current wrestler Lane Rogers, said, “His positivity is unwavering. He pushes athletes of all abilities and believes in each of them. He has the ability to work with any kids but expects them to work hard and shows that hard work pays off. I’m am blessed to have had my kids work with him and look forward to him coaching with them going forward.”

As his former assistant coach Nick Talbot said, “Few times in life you get to be around a person that makes you want to be a better human. Scott O’Hare is that man. He is the calm in the storm, the shade in the heat. He is a leader, motivator, example, and rock solid. It is a great honor to call him brother and friend. He loves you for where you’re at, and pushes you where you’re going.”

More from Laura Fowler Paulus
Thankful for friends who become family
Since my kids get to talk about Joel, I decided I get...
Read More