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Matt Wymore (Class of 2011)
Skyview grad Matt Wymore excelling as shut-down corner for Carroll

Matt Wymore is a rarity.

More than that, the Skyview High graduate may even be the first of his kind — that is, a four-year starting corner at Carroll College.

“That doesn’t happen at corner,” Carroll coach Mike Van Diest said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had one at the corner. ... We’ve had a lot of great players in the secondary; but to have a four-year starter at corner, you’ve gotta be pretty special.”

Wymore and his Saints teammates, take on the College of Idaho at noon today in Helena, Montana.

Wymore has come a long way from his high school days at Skyview, and Van Diest believes he still hasn’t reached his ceiling.

Two years ago, as a freshman, he finished with 27 total tackles, two for loss, and six passes broken up.

It was a strong start, but last year his numbers were huge: 60 tackles — including 50 solo stops — one for a loss, and five passes broken up. His tackles total was the fifth-best on the team in 2013.

The junior hasn’t seen his tackle numbers take off quite like that this season — he’s got 21 total after eight games — but he’s also got a career-high 10 passes broken up already, and also recorded the first interception of his career. He returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.

Wymore said, though, that this is a good thing — it means plays are getting stopped at the line or by the linebackers before they get to him.

“It takes all 11 guys doing their job on defense for everything to run smoothly,” he said. “A lot of guys are making tackles that maybe last year I’d have to make; we’ve been pretty sound tacklers. And that makes our job a little better in the secondary.

“Having (defensive tackle) Dakota Amy back helps out a lot. He’s an experienced player with a lot of playing time. And also having (linebacker) Jake Konen and (defensive back) Greg Tucker back. You hate to see someone go down and miss a whole season like that, just as your friends. But also when they go down, the football part of it means it’s hard to have to replace players like them.”

Keenly aware of his responsibilities — and his deficiencies — Wymore has a reputation for extensive film study. He’s learned, of course, his defense and checks, but he’s also spent time learning offensive tendencies of the opposition. He’s had to. Because in Van Diest’s system, he’s often all alone on a play. It’s just Wymore and the receiver, on an island.

In Van Diest’s words, he’s “a lone ranger out there.”

“We don’t play cover 3 very much, where they can just sit back and play the deep post routes and fade routes,” Van Diest said. “It may say ‘zone’ on the call sheet, but once they’ve got a receiver in their zone it becomes man-to-man. And we put a lot of pressure on them. We do it because Ryan Gregory and Matt can do it. You’ve gotta have great corners to play great defense.”

And if Carroll has one thing, it’s a great defense.

The Saints rank eighth in the nation in opponent first downs, seventh in scoring defense per game, eighth in opposition third-down conversions and 15th in total defense per game.

That kind of effort is what’s helped the team rally from a season-opening loss to claim six straight wins on its way to earning the No. 2 spot in the NAIA Top 25 poll. Carroll doesn’t play for rankings, nor does the team pay that much attention at all, truth be told. But it’s certainly an indicator of the national respect that has been earned by the program.

“That first game ... it was a tough game,” Wymore said. “But we just try to get better every week. Coach emphasizes improving and playing our best game — and we still haven’t played our best game yet. You never really do. There are always things you can do better.”

It’s a lesson Wymore learned early. And, thrown into a starting roll with older players, he’s taken full advantage of their knowledge. Among the biggest influences and teachers, he lists now-graduated Mike Siegersma, a Nampa Christian graduate.

“Having him around, we could kind of relate,” Wymore said. “We bonded on a lot of levels. He helped me grow as a player, for sure. It was awesome having him around.

“I was lucky to be thrown in there with older guys like Matt Upham and Mike Siegersma. They showed me what it takes to be successful at this level. I don’t know if I would have had the success I have without those guys.”

Siegersma isn’t the only Idaho connection Wymore has found. In fact, the Saints have had great success with Idaho products. There are more than a dozen of them on the current roster, including fellow Skyview High graduate Walker Ray.

There’s more work ahead for Wymore, but Van Diest is confident in his lone ranger.

“He’s come a long ways,” Van Diest said. “I expect so much out of him. I expect him to be the best defensive back in the country. Sometimes, when he’s not, I get on him pretty hard. But it’s only because I really think he can be the best. He’s shown great ball skills in terms of pass break-ups and he’s got great footwork, he just needs to constantly be focusing on his footwork and how he stays square, reading the routes, and I think he’s done that. He is a good football player, his teammates love him, and I think he’s the kind of guy who, when it’s all said and done, he may not have the number of interceptions that Mike Siegersma had, but he’s every bit as good as Mike Siegersma and some of the guys we’ve played with.

“He doesn’t get down. He’s a competitor. When you see how he comes back and plays after a big play against him, you can see it. He’s a big-time player.”