Hampton wrestler Hart eying county, PIAA titles
With 100 career wins, a truckload of medals and a Division I scholarship in hand, Hampton wrestler Jake Hart spent his summer working toward one thing that has evaded his illustrious résumé: a PIAA gold medal.
Hart finished last season with a PIAA silver, and although his goal will not be easy, he is not going to rest on the past.
“I want to win that state championship,” Hart said. “I pounded the weights with our junior high coach (Mike Thompson) this summer and feel night-and-day different from last year. Last year, it was easy to keep weight. Now, I have to cut from 203 before each match.
“I feel so much bigger, and I can force stuff I couldn't last year.”
With the Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament staring Hart and the Talbots in the face this weekend, the senior said he will lean on his experience in addition to his physical attributes in hopes of winning his first county gold medal. He has been a silver medalist three times.
“There is no messing around the first or second rounds (at the county tournament)” Hart said. “I will do what I do to stay on top and mentally break them. I hope to win it this time.”
Hampton coach Joe Bursick said Hart has made a lot of strides in his craft. He put in the time, according to Bursick, and now it is a matter of combining his improvement in the top position with his experience on big stages.
“Jake signed with Edinboro University, so it says a lot for a Division I program to show that kind of faith in him,” Bursick said. “He was poised at the Powerade Tournament, and that experience will make countys look smaller.
“Jake turned up his aggression and is coming in with confidence.”
Hart — who took second in the 195-pound class — should be confident, but he is not going into any tournament unprepared.
“It was cool to get the 100 wins, because that takes time and you basically have to start as a ninth grader to get there,” Hart said. “Coach Bursick has kept the same gameplan that has worked for us ... wrestle hard and keep improving.”
Hart is within striking distance of Brian Pogel's career win mark at Hampton and is the 12th wrestler to win 100 or more matches.
To succeed at countys, Hart said he has to use his new-found explosion and added size and strength to his advantage. He said he was on the small side last year, and some time with the Pitt Wrestling Club in addition to his other work helped him add some new techniques.
Not just out for himself, Hart mentioned his teammates and the fact they all grew up together and that his workout partner Noah Shulman has been a large help.
“Noah is a strong and sturdy partner,” Hart said. “We have been together for a long time.”
Hart knows that, barring injury, the sky is the limit for him and his wrestling career, and noted that a big technical-fall win in the state championships last year was a highlight he will never forget.
“At that moment, to know you are one of the top two (wrestlers) in the state is an awesome feeling,” Hart said.
Hart and the Hampton faithful hope there are a few more moments like that one still to come.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.