LAURINBURG —A 17-year-old wrestler in Scotland County who attended St. Pauls High School until recently died Monday afternoon during a training session after school.
Tavarius Hall, a student at Scotland County High School, was taking part in an off-season workout when he began to have trouble breathing, school officials said. He collapsed shortly afterward and was administered CPR by bystanders, according to Mike Edge, assistant director for the Scotland County Emergency Services.
Hall was in full cardiac arrest when Scotland County paramedics arrived about seven minutes after the 5 p.m. 911 call, Edge said. He was taken to Scotland Memorial Hospital, where he died.
The junior had a current physical and was cleared to participate in the wrestling program’s off-season conditioning session, according to schools spokesman Andy Cagle. A trainer was also on-hand during the session, Cagle said.
“We ensure the safety of all of our student athletes, and all proper procedures were in place,” Cagle said. “This is a terrible tragedy, and any time you lose a student it’s bad for both the school and the community.”
Scotland senior Aatianna Williams remembers Hall fondly, having sparked a friendship with him during their time in junior high at Spring Hill Middle School. That friendship would continue when Hall returned to Laurinburg from St.Pauls, where he attended high school from ninth to 11th grades, only recently transferring.
“I remember being around all of my friends when we were younger, and he was always dancing, singing and making everyone laugh,” Williams said. “I’ve seen him every day since he came back to Scotland, and he would always stop me in the halls to ask how I was doing. With him gone, it just shows me that you should let everyone that’s important in your life know how much you appreciate them, because you never know when God will take them away.”
The mood was somber at Scotland High on Tuesday. All off-season workouts for wrestlers have been cancelled for this week. According to Cagle, 10 counselors are on campus to help students deal with the tragedy.
St. Pauls High School counselor Jeneane Roberson, who met Hall in his ninth grade year and kept a close relationship with him until he transferred to Scotland High about a month ago, said he was a special student and a “little person with a big heart.”
“He was the type of student that no matter what was going on in his life, he was upbeat and always trying to make people smile,” she said. “… He was unique in the way that no matter what the style was, he had his own style. The kids and I joke now that he had a pair of skinny jeans and a pair of Converses for every day of the week.”
Roberson said that Hall loved to sing and was known as the “Kirk Franklin of St. Pauls High” in honor of the Grammy-winning gospel music singer.
“He just stood out — it’s hard to explain,” she said. “He had a glow that drew you to him. I don’t think anyone can say anything bad about him.”
Robeson said students were asking why Hall had to die so young.
“Sometimes God uses the great people to get your attention because he was a great person on the campus,” she said. “He was a quiet leader … . He wasn’t really loud or outspoken but when he did speak, he had something positive to say.”
Matthew Anglin, wrestling coach at St. Pauls High, said Hall had a “very bubbly personality,” and that “if he didn’t know you, he’d get to know you quick.”
Anglin said Hall began wrestling in his ninth-grade year, and though he struggled at first, he became a “leader on the mat” and had one of the best records at the school.
“One of his biggest goals this year was to become the first state champion. He really enjoyed working with the team, and even though he was at Scotland he was planning on coming with us to a pre-season tournament,” Anglin said.
Stephon Graham wrestled with Hall at Scotland High.
“If I finished last in a running drill, Tavarius would tell me that I could do better if I put the effort in, and that always helped me feel better,” Graham said. “He was the guy who gave more than 100 percent effort from what I saw, and even encouraged the older kids to step up their effort too. I couldn’t believe it when I heard he had died.”
Scotland middleweight wrestler Clifton Taylor had spoken to Hall shortly before Monday’s workouts began.
“We had a conversation in the lunch room about practice and getting ready for the upcoming season that same day,” Taylor said. “It was one of only a couple times we spoke, but Tavarius seemed like an outgoing and truly good person.”
Reach Laurinburg Exchange sports editor Jason Chisari at 910-276-2311 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Abbi Overfelt contributed to this report.