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Thomas Wilcher is a high school athletic coach who was previously a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I track and field national champion in the indoor 55 m hurdles and a three-time NCAA All-American in track and field for the University of Michiganmarker. Wilcher was also a running back for the Michigan Wolverines football team from 19831986. In his redshirt senior year, he was a member of the Big Ten Conference football champion team as well as a 110 m hurdles Big Ten individual champion.

In high school, Wilcher was a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) record-setting hurdler. As an athlete, he is a ten-time MHSAA track and field champion and a two-time Michigan High School Track and Cross Country Athlete of the Year award winner. He was also a Junior Olympics champion in the 110 m hurdles and an All-state tailback in football.

As of 2009, Wilcher is the head coach for the football team and the boy's track & field team at Cass Technical High School in Detroitmarker. As a boy's track coach, he is a three time MHSAA team track and field champion, and his school has also twice been the MHSAA runner up. In his role as a football coach, he is a former Detroit Free Press Coach of the Year, who once convinced Vernon Gholston, the 2007 Big Ten Conference Defensive lineman of the year and 2008 NFL Draft sixth overall pick, to try playing football and to return to the sport after quitting.

High school

At Detroit Central High School, he was a ten-time MHSAA champion (three-time team, four-time relay, three-time individual) and Michigan High School Track and Cross Country Athlete of the Year award winner in both 1981 and 1982. He led Detroit Central to three consecutive state MHSAA Class A championships as a team from 1980–1982. As a sophomore in 1980, he was the anchor of the Class A state champion 4 × 440 yard relay race team. As a junior in 1981, he won the MHSAA Class A high hurdles, as well as participated on the 4 × 440 and 4 × 110 MHSAA champions. As a senior, he won both the low hurdles (300 m) and high hurdles (110 m) as well as participated on the state champion 4 × 100 meter MHSAA champions. His time of 13.5 in the 110 metre hurdles was the state all class record from 1981–1986 and continues to be tied for the second fastest time in state high school history. His 1982 time of 13.6 seconds continues to be the fastest 110 meter hurdles time ever run at the MHSAA state championship meet. Although not officially recognized as a record due to metric conversions from yards to meters, the 1982 time of 41.7 in the 4 × 100 is considered indistinguishable from the official record and is described as a notable performance according to state records.

Nationally, he was the number one ranked scholastic high hurdler as a junior as well as the number one ranked long (low) hurdler as a senior and was undefeated by high school athletes in both years in the respective events. As a junior, he won the 1981 AAU Junior Olympic Games in the high hurdles (By some accounts he was an AAU Junior champion in 1982). As a senior, he won the International Prep and Golden West low hurdle races. He was timed as fast as 13.48 seconds and 13.28 (wind-aided). In addition to his track accolades, he was an All-state tailback.

College

Wilcher was recruited to the University of Michiganmarker by Thomas E. Moss, Sr., the former Deputy Chief of Police for the Detroit Police Department. In 1986, he won the NCAA indoor 55 meter hurdles Championship, and he placed fifth in the NCAA outdoor 110 m hurdles with a time of 13.57, earning both indoor and outdoor track & field All-American honors. He had also placed third in the outdoor 110m hurdles in 1985 earning All-American honors. In 1987, he was the outdoor Big Ten Conference 110 meter hurdles champion and earned first team All-Big Ten honors. Wilcher holds numerous Michigan Wolverines records in the high hurdles including both the team indoor 60 meters (converted), team outdoor 110 meters, and Michigan indoor track building records. Wilcher's personal best and team record time of 13.52 seconds in the 110 meter hurdles came at the 1985 Penn Relays where he was also the event champion. He was the Big Ten winter sports athlete of the week in January 1986 for his hurdling performance.

In February 1985, Wilcher was involved in an altercation stemming from an intramural basketball game. Thomas Wilcher incurred penalties of 72 hours of public service deferred sentence, US$429 court costs and restitution in Ann Arbor District Court.

Wilcher, who wore #27 as a Wolverine, redshirt as a true freshman in 1982 and played sparringly in his second and third seasons. He earned varsity letters in football as a redshirt junior and redshirt senior for coach Bo Schembechler. He totaled rushing and eight touchdowns as a tailback in a the same backfield as Jamie Morris. However, he never caught a pass. In his final season, he totaled 397 rushing yards and six touchdowns. That year, he was a member of the 1986 Big Ten Conference football champions who went on to the 1987 Rose Bowlmarker, but accumulated no statistics in the Rose Bowl. He accumulated statistics in eleven of the thirteen games played and started twice. He had also started one game in 1985. In his best games, he rushed for and a touchdown on 16 carries in a 34–3 win against the South Carolina Gamecocks football team on September 21, 1985, and he rushed for two touchdowns and in Morris' absence in a 34–17 win against the Wisconsin Badgers football team on October 4, 1986. His touchdowns were the first two in what became Schembechler's 200th victory. On September 27, 1986, his seven-yard (6 m) touchdown run cemented a homecoming victory against the Florida State Seminoles football team by putting the team up 20–10 with 1:27 remaining.

After graduating, Wilcher competed for the University of Chicago Track Club while training for the United States Olympic Trials for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. On May 8, 1988 he won the Jesse Owens Classic with a 110-meter high hurdles time of 13.70. At the Olympic Trials on July 23, 1988 at Indiana University Track and Field Stadium, his second-round heat included Arthur Blake, Jack Pierce, and Greg Foster who placed first, second and third respectively as well as Tony Dees.

Coaching

Wilcher is the current football head coach at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, where through the 2008 season, the team has compiled a 72–48 (.600) record and competed in the MHSAA Class-A playoffs seven times since he became head coach in 1997. He was the 1998 Detroit Free Press High School Football Coach of the Year, with his Detroit City Class-A runner-up team. His 2008 football program went 7–2 during the regular season and advanced to the second round of the MHSAA Class A Playoffs. In the previous two seasons his teams went 13–7 after a 2005 season in which they went 2–7 (his worst season as a coach) without a home field. At Cass, some of his athletes have included Vernon Gholston, and Marko Cooper, who was 1999 All-USA second team. One of the first star players he coached was future Michigan Wolverines-leading rusher and NFL-athlete Clarence Williams. He enjoyed his only undefeated regular season as a football coach with Williams (although he was only an assistant coach), when Cass Tech compiled a 9–0 regular season record before losing 22–21 to Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School. The team compiled a 319–56 points differential. In 2007, Joseph Barksdale was the Detroit News' No. 1 Blue Chip Prospect, Parade All-American, U.S. Army All-American Bowl Participant (East Roster), USA Today All-USA High School First Team, The ESPN.com 150, Rivals.com Top 100 for 2007, Scout.com Hot 100 for 2007, and SuperPrep All-American. His 2007 team had three players committed to Big Ten Conference football teams and was the preseason #2 ranked school in the Detroit Public School League. In 2007, Boubacar Cissoko, who has committed to Michigan, won the award for the best player at the U.S. Army National Combine for high school football players and he has several other promising prospects such as William Campbell and Teric Jones. Cortez Smith signed with Indiana. The 2007 team is also sending a trio of players to play for Indiana State Universitymarker. He also coached Bubba Paris' son William, who was a highly touted prospect.

Wilcher is also the Cass boy's track and field coach. The team won the MHSAA Class A track and field championships in 1994, 1995, and 1996 under Wilcher. The team was state runner up in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Championships in 2001 and 2002. Among the track athletes he has trained are NCAA All-American Pierre Vinson, and current Michigan Wolverine redshirt freshman, Nick McCampbell.

Vernon Gholston

Vernon Gholston did not play football at Cass until his sophomore year and did not play on defense (at linebacker) until his senior year. Gholston did not even see himself as a football player when he was in high school, yet he has gone on to become an Ohio State Buckeyes football defensive end, the 2007 Big Ten Conference Defensive lineman of the year and the sixth overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. According to Gholston, "It was between periods and I was going to my next class. . . .He thought I was actually somebody’s father walking down the hall. He asked me whom was I looking for. I was like, 'Nobody. I go here.' He really couldn't believe it. He kind of grabbed me at that point and put me on the team."

A similar, although more indepth, story of the recruitment of Gholston has been told by Wilcher: "He was walking down the hall with a Bible in his hands," Wilcher said. "He was already built like a grown man; he was all cut up (like a bodybuilder). I asked him, 'Can I help you sir?' He looked around to see who I was talking to. I said, 'Are you looking for a student?' He said, 'No, I go here.' He said he was a freshman. I thought he was lying." When the defensive coordinator kicked Gholston off the team for being too soft, Wilcher went to his house and dragged him back into the program: "I told him I didn't care if he wasn't tough enough, he was going to play football for me," Wilcher said. "I knew that he had desire to play. My only regret is that I didn't put him at running back. I didn't know how fast he was."

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