In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Mike Carey Retires
There comes a time when all coaches mark the end of their tenure as a coach and move into the next phase of their life. For Mike Carey, that decision became practice at the end of the 2023 NCHSAA State Tournament and considering that he is leaving with his team as the reigning NCHSAA 3A State Champions the past two seasons, there is no better way of going out.
Coach Carey began his coaching career in 1998 at Newton-Conover Middle School. He would serve there through 2008 (he was also Athletic Director for 6 years) and then move to Foard to teach PE (weight training classes for the most part) and be the head wrestling coach.
During his first season, his team finished 17-13, which was excellent considering the state of the program prior to his arrival as head coach. The prior season, Foard had 6 wrestlers on the team. Carey’s first season there were 0 returning state qualifiers on the team. But, that season set the foundation for what was to come as evidenced by his second season’s 26-7 record. That team won Foard their first ever conference championship in wrestling.
From this point forward, Fred T Foard had arrived on the state level scene as evidenced by their 10 consecutive conference championships throughout the duration of Coach Carey’s tenure at Foard and the fact that his team won the state tournament.
Here is a compilation of how Coach Carey’s Foard team finished from his third season and beyond:
2010-2011: 29-2, 3A State Tournament Champions, 3A West Regional Tournament Champions, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Champions, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Tournament Champions
2011-2012: 30-2, 3A West Regional Tournament Champions, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Champions, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Tournament Champions
2012-2013: 39-2, 3A State Dual Champions, Conference Champions
2013-2014: 36-4, 3A West Regional Champions, 3A North Carolina Dual Team Runners-up, 3A/4A Northwestern Conference Dual and Tournament Champions
2014-2015: 40-1, 3A State Dual Champions, 3A West Regional Champions, 3A/4A Northwestern Conference Champions, 3rd at State Tournament
2015-2016: 34-2, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Dual and Tournament Champions
2016-2017: 30-6, Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Dual Champions, 3A West Regional Tournament Runners Up
2017-2018: 34-1, Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Dual and Tournament Champions, 2A West Regional Dual Runners Up, 2A West Regional Tournament Champions, 2A State Tournament Champions
2018-2019: 24-4, Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Dual and Tournament Champions, 4th at State Tournament
2019-2020: 47-0, 2A State Dual champions, 2A West Regional Champions, Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Dual and Tournament Champions
**2020-2021: 22-0, Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Dual Champions, NC 2A State Runners-up
2021-2022: 34-2, 3A State Dual Champs, 3A State Tournament Champions, Conference champions
2022-2023: 37-1, 3A State Dual Champions, 3A State Tournament Champions, 3A West Regional Champions, Conference Champions
So, to surmise for you all what you just read is the following:
Coach Carey had an overall win-loss record of 590-57 (at both schools) and 479-47 (Foard only). His teams won 9 state championships with another 3 Runners-up finishes in 2014, 2020, and 2021. As previously mentioned, his team was conference champions for 10 consecutive seasons going 187-7 during his career in conference matches.
You may have noticed the asterisks (**) listed beside the 2020-21 season. That is because that was the COVID year where there was no state dual tournament and there were no consolation brackets in the state tournament. Had both been in operation you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t agree that Foard would have added to their state championship collection.
Here are some responses from Coach Carey following the question asked:
Why did you decide to retire from coaching Carey? “I am getting out of high school head coaching to follow and watch my son so that I can be the "dad" that I want to be.”
His son Brock finished his senior season as undefeated state champion, adding another state championship to the Carey coaching legacy at Foard HS as well as in the Carey household. No doubt that is an added dimension of going out on top as a retiring head coach.
What do you consider your coaching career highlight? “My last season as a coach. It was a dream come true to watch my son, and some of his best friends go out as dual and tournament champions, and to watch my son cap a perfect 56-0 season after so many injury filled seasons.”
The 2022-23 season was anything but a given for the Foard team. They endured and overcame quite a bit of adversity from injuries to kids quitting or being removed from the team to fulfill their season ending state championship run. No doubt the experience and knowledge of Coach Carey leading the ship helped keep them afloat through the difficulty of the state tournament series.
What are your future plans now that you're no longer an active head wrestling coach? “I will teach and probably be an assistant middle school coach for 3 more years until I can fully retire. I will be moved to Mill Creek Middle School for the last few years of my teaching career.”
Throughout Coach Carey’s tenure as Foard coach he was awarded several honors as Coach of the Year. This year he was the Harvey Reid Male Coach of the Year by the NCHSAA. He’s also been a multiple time named Coach of the Year for the State and Conference.
Coach Carey also coached football for 10 years and baseball for 2 years.
Coach Carey has been married to Kelly since 1999 and has 2 kids (Brock-the state champion who’s headed to Davidson College in Charlotte, and Taylor-his daughter who runs track).
I asked Coach Carey to make one final comment letting me know anything he thinks I should know or anything he wanted me to include in this article and he responded “I am proud that we made the sport of wrestling important in the Foard community. Previously, when I took the program over, I inherited 6 kids, and the program had only 1 state qualifier in the previous 3 years. I like to think we showed kids how to be better men and opened their eyes to different things. "Find A Way".
Here are some reactions from some involved at Foard regarding Coach Carey’s retirement from coaching:
“Mike Carey has had an amazing career as both a teacher and wrestling coach. His impact as a leader and mentor to me personally has really helped shape my own career. Him retiring from coaching will leave behind big shoes to fill, but his legacy will serve as a model to strive for. Everyone in North Carolina knows he's made this sport better than before he came around.”
“We are pretty close, he had mentioned several times that he was considering retirement but honestly, I wasn’t sure he really would. He has invested so much into this program. But it doesn’t get better than the year we had. Dual champions, state tournament champions, four individual champs, and his son won his first state title. Nothing can ever top that, so it’s a good note to go out on. Still I know it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever made. I’m sure whoever comes in next will do a good job, but there will never be another Coach like him. He has a passion and a drive that can’t be matched. He knows how to get the best out of everyone around him, and how to push them to be the best version of themselves. That’s a unique quality. Even though he’s retiring, he’s created a culture at Foard that I believe will continue. He doesn’t like to take a lot of credit, but he deserves it for sure.”
Trevor Cook (Foard All-State wrestler class of 2014):
“To the uninitiated, many awe at Coach Carey’s success in the sport of wrestling. His accolades and trophies speak for themselves. But, his influence extends beyond the mats. He transformed looked over athletes, such as myself and countless others into hardened warriors. In a world of increasing mediocrity, Coach pushed us beyond this threshold and forged us into individuals that could only be beat, never defeated on and off the mat. I happily thank Coach for the memories, wins and championship rings but, as he transitions into his next chapter, I must thank him above all for the lessons he instilled into me and so many others. I will always be extremely proud that I wrestled for Foard and Coach Carey.”
“Find a Way” he did, and he’s leaving on his own accord with 9 state championships in tow. Congratulations on a highly successful coaching career and best wishes to Coach Mike Carey. New Foard coach, Byron Sigmon, has huge shoes to fill, but he’s definitely got the Catawba County genetic connection to continue the Carey legacy.
Barry Justus- retired East Rowan coach
Eddy Clark- retired Newton-Conover coach
Bill Wheeler- retired official