Locklear impacting lives and making a difference

Hoke High Wrestling Coach Brandon Locklear (center) coaches his team during the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament. Locklear is recovering from a recent heart attack, which took the 30-year-old by surprise. The shocking event resulted in the young coach having an epiphany about the essential things in life. (HAL NUNN | NORTH STATE JOURNAL)

RAEFORD — Brandon Locklear is the head wrestling coach at Hoke County High School and is currently making a significant impact on young students through wrestling, education, and life.

Recently the 30-year-old coach suffered a heart attack with 100% blockage in an artery, which very nearly cost him his young life. Now, Locklear feels and knows his path forward is for a much greater cause than just wrestling.  

His story began in high school at Hoke High in 2006, when Vernon Walworth, the influential head coach of the wrestling team at the time, sat down with the young Locklear after he managed to get himself in some trouble at school. Walworth talked to him about wrestling and life, steering the young student towards a more structured school life. Locklear’s father had also been a wrestler in his youth, so the sport immediately appealed to him. 

Through coach Walworth leadership, Locklear became devoted to the sport of wrestling and competed at Hoke High School until he graduated.

Following high school, Locklear dreamed of continuing his wrestling career at the collegiate level while studying at UNC Pembroke. Unfortunately, the demands of college and life interfered with his goals, and wrestling was forced to take a backseat in his life.

During his time in college, Locklear still managed to maintain a presence around the Buck’s wrestling team, often traveling with them and helping out where he could. Though he was never officially a paid assistant coach because he wasn’t a school system employee, Locklear was essentially an assistant coach.

However, everything changed in 2013 when Locklear became the school’s Drop Out Prevention Coordinator, and Walworth immediately brought him on as an official assistant coach. Locklear worked alongside his former mentor before Walworth made him the Head Assistant Coach in 2015. 

Following the untimely death of Locklear’s former coach and mentor in 2021, the school was forced to name a replacement for the head wrestling coach, though Athletic Director Gary Brigman and Principal Dr. Thomas Benson already had the perfect candidate.

“It was talked about quite a bit that if Coach Walworth ever left Hoke County, Brandon would be a good fit. With his training, experience, and how he related to the kids, it would be well above trying to bring in someone from the outside,” said Brigman.

In August 2021, Locklear began his career as the head coach, immediately carrying on Walworth’s legacy. During his first year as the Bucks’ head coach, the team finished 3rd in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

This season, the Bucks started out 8-0, defeating two top 10 powerhouses in state wrestling: Cary High School and Emsley A Laney (the defending state champions). The Bucks have won the Boneyard Bash at Jack Britt for the first time ever, defeated the Wakefield boys’ and girls’ duals, and placed in the top five at the Mark Adams Invitation Wrestling Tournament, despite missing three of their top starters.

Locklear feels that with all the pieces in place this year, the Bucks could win a State Championship. However, he now knows now that there is much more to life than winning, losing, and wrestling, a realization that became clear to him following his recent heart attack.

“I kind of felt like I was spinning my wheels, losing my passion and pouring myself into a lot of different things, but after my health scare, it sort of put things into perspective for me that what you give to others, that’s what really matters and makes you happy,” said Locklear. “And when I started getting calls and texts from people that I had not heard from or coached in years, that told me everything I needed to know. I was skeptical about continuing to coach, and I had a lot going on at work. Losing Coach Walworth was a lot, but hearing from those people and taking a few days off, it was reassuring that I am where I suppose to be.”

“You don’t have to do everything yourself or try to conquer all tasks,” Locklear explained further. “You can bring in others to help you, you can give other people opportunities to help you and others, and giving back is what it’s all about.”

The Bucks have an excellent opportunity to compete at the regional tournament coming up, and Locklear is hopeful that the team will make it into the state playoffs. With the current success this season, including three Bucks wrestlers collecting their 100th wins in school history (Landen Nelson, David Coptsias, and Cedric Griffin Jr.), it looks like Locklear is creating his own legacy here at Hoke County High School.