Lander wrestling coach R.C. LaHaye coached last year’s preseason clinic at Ninety Six High School by himself. This year’s clinic was much different.

LaHaye and his assistant coach were joined by Darius Parker, the program’s first nationally ranked wrestler, at this year’s clinic at Ninety Six. Youth and high school wrestlers from across the Lakelands learned from Lander’s wrestlers during the two-hour session.

LaHaye looked forward to Lander’s effort to bring better training and techniques to wrestlers in the Lakelands.

“I think obviously when Lander decided to add wrestling, they knew there were strong wrestling roots in the area,” LaHaye said. “Adding the sport at the collegiate level is just going to bring a better level of coaches and athletes that have been around the sport, maybe at a larger scale. For them to come and run camps and do clinics and to come a run practice for kids five years old all the way up to high school seniors, they’re going to get better because of the influx of more wrestlers that have competed at a national level.”

The Bearcats will have their first ever home match Wednesday when they take on Mount Olive at Finis Horne Arena. LaHaye is excited about the impact of the program on the community and the opportunity for young wrestlers to attend matches.

“Being able to really reach out and let them see what college wrestling is all about,” LaHaye said of the program’s benefit to the community. “They get to come see it, not only to get coached by the coaches but then to let them walk into the arena and see a full scale dual, that’ll be exciting for them.”

Parker won the UNC Pembroke Classic in November and Brandon Holt won the tournament title at the Georgia Open in the program’s first competition.

The Lakelands have enjoyed recent success in the sport. Area teams had four state champions at last year’s state wrestling meet. Ninety Six sent a program record nine wrestlers to state last year. Abbeville’s Chandler Smalley was the 20th wrestler in state history to win four state championships.

LaHaye has hosted several camps for local wrestlers of all ages since he joined as the team’s coach more than a year ago.

“It helps our college guys as much as it helps these kids, because it gives them a sense of giving back to the community that they are in,” LaHaye said. “We’ll always have camps, we’ll always have clubs, we’ll always reach out to any kids in the area that want to participate in the sport of wrestling.”

Contact sports writer Skylar Rolstad at 223-1813 or follow him on Twitter @SkyRolSports.