Tom 'Legs' Harbert receives call to another hall
Calling it yet another humbling experience, longtime St. Vincent College coach Tom Harbert was honored Oct. 5 with induction into the Shippensburg University Athletic Hall of Fame, mainly for his accomplishments in wrestling.
Harbert, a former wrestling coach at St. Vincent and Latrobe High School, won a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship during his senior year at Shippensburg and subsequently was selected for the United States Olympic Trials.
Harbert also won the U.S. Masters Wrestling Tournament at the University of Pennsylvania and additionally was a member of the Shippensburg track and field team, running the 1- and 2-mile events.
“It was awesome. Everybody was so receptive,” Harbert said of the induction ceremonies. “It was amazing that so many people I knew were there. Both of my coaches, from track and wrestling, made it.
“I was fond of the experience at Shippensburg. It gave me my foundation. It gave me a quality education. It opened a door to the rest of my life.”
While Harbert, 70, has been involved in various sports throughout his lifetime — he also has coached men's and women's lacrosse and men's and women's cross country at St. Vincent — wrestling seems to have been his No. 1 passion.
“ ‘Legs' is my nickname,” said Harbert, who continues to coach women's cross country at St. Vincent. “I taught at (wrestling) camps and instructed that technique. I used my legs like my arms. I used them to dominate the matches. That was my skill. I learned a lot of it from my coaches.”
Harbert also is a member of the National Wrestling, Southwestern Pennsylvania Sports, Pennsylvania Sports and St. Vincent College halls of fame. He said he is “humbled to get all the awards,” but the latest is unique.
“It was so much more on the personal side because I had my teammates there from the wrestling team. That meant a lot,” he said.
If he continues to coach, next year will be Harbert's 50th overall at various sports, 40 of which have come in wrestling. Harbert coached St. Vincent's program for eight seasons before taking over at the high school level at Latrobe, which won a total of 202 matches during a 20-year span.
Harbert has two sons involved in wrestling as coaches. Tad leads the Latrobe High School program, while Brent coaches the youth program in the Ligonier Valley district, where two grandsons participate.
“It's a lot of fun to watch,” Harbert said.
A native of Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County, Harbert continued to run competitively following graduation, participating in four marathons and even finishing third at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
“I didn't get into running until afterward,” Harbert said. “My college coach saw me running to keep my weight down for wrestling. I didn't set any world records, but I've run in literally hundreds of road races.”
Harbert oversaw a dramatic change in the St. Vincent lacrosse teams, taking them to a scholarship program from club sport level.
He continues to host a Nike girls lacrosse camp at St. Vincent, attracting participants from as many as five states.
“It's been a good ride, seriously,” he said. “My objective is I still want to work with young athletes and make them role models and winners in life. If I can accomplish all that, it will have been worth it.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5617.