Former Cary High wrestling coach Jerry Winterton knew only that, during a team scrimmage on Thursday, the school would be unfurling a new banner to honor his induction to the National Federation of High Schools Hall of Fame .
He had no clue what was next.
More than 50 former wrestlers showed up to surprise him, some dating back to his first year of coaching in 1980.
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There was one more twist: The school also renamed one of its wrestling mats after Winterton, who is still an assistant with the program. Athletic director Mike Dunphy said he had asked Winterton to sign his name for something unrelated so he could get the coach’s signature to place on the mat.
As a head coach, Winterton led the Imps to 19 state championships (11 individual tournaments, eight duals) and was runner-up 13 times (six individual tournaments, seven duals). In dual meets, he went 620-16 (97.5 percent) at Cary alone, 642-34 (94.9) overall and 540-3 (99.4) in the regular season.
His program led the nation in tournaments won – 166.
Cary won 28 straight conference championships and 266 consecutive home duals.
From 1996 to 2010, Cary finished first or second in 24 out of a possible 28 dual-team and individual tournament championships.
Twice, he was named national high school wrestling coach of the year and is a member of the Cary High Sports Hall of Fame, the North Carolina chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
He was named The Mat News’ N.C. Coach of the Year 10 times.
He coached 32 All-Americans and 48 state champions.