MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There isn’t a high school wrestling coach in the country that can claim as many career wins as Eden Prairie coach Scot Davis. His 1,046 victories would make him the all-time national record-holder. But he’s not in the national high school record book.
That’s because the National Federation of State High School Associations, which maintains the record book, only includes records that are recognized at the state level. And the Minnesota State High School League refuses to recognize it.
Because of the way Davis did it.
A way he says he’s proud of.
“I think we did really help kids,” he said in an interview with WCCO.
It goes back nearly 30 years ago when Davis took over at Owatonna, where he spent most of his career. He said a lot of kids would quit if they didn’t get to wrestle on the Varsity team.
“They (wanted) to be Varsity or nothing,” Davis recalled.
To wrestle more kids on Varsity, he’d need more Varsity matches and to get more matches, he had to get creative.
“I thought, hey, let’s broaden our schedule, and see if it’ll keep kids out,” Davis said.
Instead of traditional dual meets — one match against a single team – Davis started sending his teams almost exclusively to triangular and quadrangular meets, where his team would compete against three, four, or even five different teams on a single day.
“It worked,” Davis said. “Immediately. I’d say in the next year, we almost doubled our participation.”
Davis’ teams wrestled upwards of 50 matches a season throughout the early 2000s, and one year even went over 60. That team, in 2005, won the state title with a 60-1 record.
“It was kind of thinking outside the box,” Davis said. “But it was within the rules.”
The Minnesota State High School League says it wasn’t.
Dave Stead, the league’s executive director, declined a request for an on-camera interview, but told WCCO there are two reasons.
First, the National Federation only accepts wins that came in dual meets. It specifically says in its record book criteria policy that “wins in ‘quads’ should not be counted.” That would be most of Davis’ wins the last 25 years. Meaning, that would make it most of Davis’ overall wins.
The other reason is the MSHSL’s rule that teams can’t wrestle more than 36 matches a year prior to postseason, which Davis went beyond every year from 1999-2009, his last 11 years at Owatonna.
Davis, who started coaching Eden Prairie in 2013, takes issue with both reasons, saying first of all, the Federation is looking at quads the wrong way.
“It’s a single dual, three times,” Davis said. “Three different teams, three single duals.”
He also points out there are two other Minnesota coaches who are in the record book with several hundred wins (Goodhue’s Bill Sutter with 760 wins and Paynesville’s Virg Vagle with 661 wins) who could’ve never gotten that many counting only single duals.
“All you’d have to do is the math,” Davis said. “How many people would have records that are in the several hundreds? You couldn’t do it.”
As for the other reason, Davis says he was following that 36-match rule. That’s because he says until 2009 it was interpreted to limit individual wrestlers to 36 matches, not teams.
“I feel strongly they shouldn’t be taken away,” Davis said. “We followed the rules.”
Stead sent a copy of the rules from three different years during that time period — prior to 2009 — to WCCO. They appear to clearly show a 36-match limit for teams.
Davis maintains the rule was never interpreted that way to him at annual rules meetings and questions why, if that was the case, it was never enforced that way, pointing to a stack of old state tournament programs he says proves it.
“These are from like a period of 10 years in time,” he said, paging through them. “I went through to find teams that were over the 36. There’s a ton of them.
“How could we win the state title at 60-1 when we were over 36? I mean, we would not have been allowed to compete in the state tournament, would we?”
The MSHSL stands behind its decision, saying that the number of matches allowed in the rule book is clear.
As for the record book? Well, Davis did win those matches. They happened. He won them. But if they don’t count because they never should have happened? Well, then we’re right back where we started — a national record, officially unofficial, and unrecognized.
Davis says even if that’s the case, he has no regrets.
“My coaching record is secondary to anything that we did with this stuff,” he said. “It wasn’t about wins. I mean you want to win, obviously, but it wasn’t about collecting more wins. It was about having more kids get participation, make themselves better wrestlers.
“I would not change a thing,” Davis said.
Davis was briefly in the record book from 2010-2011, but was removed at the request of the MSHSL, which said it had never verified the record. The League and the NFHS told WCCO that Davis’ initial entry into the record book amounted to an administrative procedural error and that he never should have been in it in the first place — an explanation that Davis and some other observers familiar with the process strongly question.