Willie Nearhood

Coaching veteran Willie Nearhood is a big get for the Cross High School coaching staff.

To use some football lingo, Cross High School football coach and athletics director Shaun Wright believes he hit a downfield shot for an explosive touchdown with the hire of Willie Nearhood.

Nearhood just finished his 20th season at Stratford and is one of 14 wrestling coaches in state history to reach the 400-win milestone on the mat. He also served as a North-South All-Star coach after the 2018-19 season and coached eight state champions at Stratford.

Nearhood has experience coaching football and played college baseball – he still plays baseball in a Lowcountry adult league — so he brings a wealth of knowledge out to Cross.

“He came in and immediately had a good rapport with our kids,” Wright said. “I’m excited to have a guy who has been in this business for as long as he has. It’s been a joy to see him work. He already understands a lot of our scheme on offense and he’s taken the initiative to help us out with some things they did at Stratford. We’ve incorporated some of those things and it’s helped us out so far.”

Nearhood will help coach the Trojans’ wide receivers and outside linebackers in the fall and head up the Cross wrestling team in the winter.

He’s come in and hit the ground running.

“Willie is a stand-up guy,” Wright said. “He’s already broken down film on our first two opponents. Just his drive to be successful and do his part is extremely impressive. Everybody that has come in contact with him or worked with him has had nothing but good things to say about him. He’s a tireless worker.”

The way Wright sees it football and wrestling go hand in hand. Both require technique, physical strength and mental fortitude.

The Trojans suffered a winless football season last fall.

Nearhood figures to find a receptive group of Cross athletes.

“Once you capture the imagination of these kids from Cross and they understand you care about them, there is nothing they won’t do for you,” Wright said. “They will play extremely hard for you. He brings that to the table. They know his name already. He knows how to help kids become better athletes and better men.”

Nick Young, a former Stratford wrestler who assisted Nearhood at Stratford, takes over the Knights wrestling program.