Thomas McVicker has no high school coaching experience, but he does bring a wealth of wrestling knowledge and an innate ability to connect with kids.
Those were the qualities Lely athletic director Bill Motolla recognized when he offered McVicker the Trojans’ head wrestling job last Friday. The young Pennsylvania native accepted the job early Monday, replacing longtime coach Mark Modica, who stepped down over the summer with his family moving to North Carolina.
McVicker, 28, starred at Forest Hills High School in Pennsylvania – one of the best wrestling states in the nation – placing fifth as a high school freshman in 2005. A car accident nearly derailed his wrestling career, as he missed most of his sophomore season with a broken tibia and struggled a bit during his junior year with metal rods still inserted in his leg. He rebounded to qualify for the state tournament as a senior, and finished his high school career with a sterling record of 101-21. After serving in the U.S. Army for a couple years, he wrestled collegiately at Division II Lake Erie College in Ohio.
“I’m super excited to mold these young minds,” said McVicker, who will also serve as a substitute teacher at the school. “From what I understand, there’s quite a few stud wrestlers here, and I can’t wait to work with them.”
McVicker’s only coaching experience came at the elementary school level, but he’s not all that concerned about it. He’s always done well working with kids. Upon graduating from college, McVicker worked as a counselor at a juvenile detention center in Pennsylvania.
“The kids I worked with, they definitely got the short end of the stick in a lot of circumstances in life,” he said. “But being able to connect with them and show them there was a brighter future ahead was a very rewarding experience. A lot of those kids had given up on ever amounting to anything. You had to bring them back to reality and remind them they are worth something and that if you ask for help, you’ll get more help than you ever thought was possible.”
While working as an elementary wrestling coach, he used many of the lessons he learned as a highly successful high school and college athlete.
“The way I wrestled was a bit unorthodox,” he said. “I was more of a defensive wrestler. I waited to capitalized on my opponent’s mistakes. As a coach, I plan to cater to the kids’ strong points while touching on their weak points. I found you work with the kid’s strengths and don’t try to change their style or make them something they’re not. You want to capitalize on what they’re good at and build on that, making them more well-rounded wrestlers.”
McVicker moved to Southwest Florida with his girlfriend Tina Sperrazza, whose parents have lived in Naples for the last three years. McVicker’s sister lives in Parrish, near Bradenton.
A criminal justice major with a minor in psychology, McVicker would like to become a full-time teacher at Lely.
“I’ve always loved learning and being able to help guide younger kids,” he said. “I’m excited for this new chapter to begin.”