Skip to main content

Cary Imps crowned best high school mascot in America after winning 66-team bracket

The green devils from North Carolina knock out the defending champion Rhinelander Hodags (Wisconsin) in the final

These Imps from Cary, North Carolina, put on a devil of a show this spring.

The Cary Imps completed their Cinderella run from underdog to best high school mascot in America, beating the Rhinelander Hodags (Wisconsin) in the National Championship Game of SBLive Sports' 66-team NCAA Tournament-style bracket.

Cary amassed 62,821 votes in the final to beat Rhinelander, which had 39,768 votes.

Albert H. Werner, a football and baseball coach at Cary in the 1930s, came up with "Imps" about 90 years ago as a nod to his alma mater, Duke, whose JV teams at the time were called the Blue Imps rather than the Blue Devils. 

Cary dropped the "Blue," and its mascot today is a deep shade of green that's strikingly similar to the team it beat in the championship round.

Cary Imps mascot champion

The top-seeded Hodags, who won SBLive Sports' fall 2022 contest as America's best high school mascot, are strongly rooted to the city of Rhinelander, where the creatures were claimed to have been discovered. 

The Hodag — a fearsome creature resembling a large bull-horned carnivore with a row of thick curved spines down its back — has figured prominently in early Paul Bunyan stories.

The Imps were in the same Mythical Creatures Bracket as the Hodags in the fall, but the North Carolina team earned just 42 votes. The Hodags prevailed with 28,603 to advance to the championship round, where they amassed 183,455 votes to cruise to the title over the Shelley Russets in Idaho (72,502 votes).

But the community of Cary showed up in droves this spring for the NCAA Tournament-style contest in which seeds were determined by the fall results.

From social media to North Carolina TV stations, Imps fans shared and shared some more, picking up steam as the two-month contest went on to eventually earn Cary the crown as champion.

Follow the links below to see the Cary Imps' six-round path from 11-seeded underdog to best high school mascot in America:

First round: Imps beat Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers (Connecticut)

Second round: Imps beat Clarkston Angoras (Georgia)

Sweet 16: Imps beat Hoopeston Cornjerkers (Illinois)

Elite Eight: Imps beat Kaukauna Galloping Ghosts (Wisconsin)

Final Four: Imps beat Camas County Mushers (Idaho)

National Championship Game: Imps beat Rhinelander Hodags (Wisconsin)