Lock Haven wrestling hasn't been a regular top 10 team since its 1990s heyday with NCAA two-time champion Cary Kolat, but that's where new head coach Scott Moore envisions the program as it works to become both fully funded and competitive.
The school named Moore the head coach Monday, removing the interim label he'd held the past month. Moore won the job over finalists Jason Mester, a Central Michigan assistant, and John Hughes, a Lehigh assistant.
Moore had been an assistant with LHU since 2010. He replaces Robbie Waller, who was released this spring after a 12-32 record in four seasons. Moore also spent 2004-10 as an assistant at Virginia.
"My goal is to attract top talent, get them to Lock Haven, get them to buy into the program and sell them on our history," said Moore. "And I want to find new ways to motivate them until we're a top 10 program consistently."
A major challenge will be fundraising, specifically to increase scholarships through donor networks and camps. Moore said LHU has about 4 1/2 equivalencies, and the NCAA limit is 9.9. The ability to offer wrestlers more aid money (equivalencies are distributed at the program's discretion) would help stock and improve the roster.
The program would be on better footing against not just the Eastern Wrestling League and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, but competitors such as Penn State, Bucknell, Lehigh, and Pittsburgh who also mine home-state talent from one of the nation's top high school talent pools.
"Within an hour and a half each way, there's maybe a half-dozen kids each year who'd be a great fit for LHU," said Moore. "They might not have the best image of the program the last 6-8 years, but they can understand from a wrestling perspective we've had 38 All-Americans and 9 national champions and we can get them to the next level."
Moore was once one of Pennsylvania's top high school talents at Franklin before spending four years at Penn State and a final year of eligibility at Virginia as a graduate student. Moore went 125-42 at Penn State, and was the Big Ten champ in 2002 and an All-American in 2003. He was again an All-American in 2004 while going 51-1 at Virginia.
Known as an aggressive wrestler, Moore led the NCAA in wins and pins in both 2003 and 2004. Moore said a key part of his coaching style is to build relationships with the wrestlers and impart an aggressive mentality.
"You wear them down on your back and you pin them," said Moore. "Sometimes that starts with being effective with the basics and wrestling physically and constantly attacking. Being relentless."
Also important for Moore was having wrestlers stay focused and disciplined in class to avoid unnecessary stress spilling over onto the mat. Moore spoke from experience there as a Big Ten and ACC scholar athlete award winner.
Moore inherits a young roster with returning NCAA qualifiers Dan Neff and Fred Garcia. Neff was the PSAC Freshman of the Year this winter at 141 pounds. Garcia, at 184, is one of the few upperclassmen.
"My goal with this year's team is to get 6-8 NCAA qualifiers, and the biggest thing we can do with young teams is face the best competition we can get and just develop them," said Moore. "Show them how to win, convince them they can win. Motivate them and instill that pride. It's mostly a mental game and most of these guys have that ability."
Moore represents the first major hire under new athletic director Mark Sherburne. The other Division I sport on campus is field hockey.
"I look forward to working with coach Moore and I am confident he will elevate our program to the highest levels on-and-off the mat and build upon our longstanding wrestling history and tradition," said Sherburne in a statement. "I am also thankful to the search committee and the various groups that met with and provided feedback on the candidates that visited campus. The strong interest and participation added to the thoroughness of our process."
Both Sherburne and Moore have Penn State ties, and Moore doesn't see the three-time defending NCAA champion power just one county over as an impossible obstacle.
"They're basically what every program desires and in the same terms, we're trying to build off their momentum," said Moore. "Centre County, Clinton County, they all love wrestling here. It's tough with them in our shadow, but it's a different perspective. We can compete with them every year, and earn a lot of respect."