Belle Vernon product Zach Hartman enters NCAAs with confidence
Zach Hartman might not end his freshman college season as an NCAA national champion. But if the Belle Vernon alumnus doesn’t, rest assured it won’t be because he wasn’t aggressive about going for it.
“The thing that makes Zach really tricky and really dangerous,” Bucknell coach Dan Wirnsberger said, “is that this guy’s always looking for the pin. That’s one thing I know about him: He’s not afraid to get himself into scoring position.”
Hartman, who is ranked No. 11 nationally at 157 pounds by intermatwrestle.com, has nine victories by fall this season. None of his teammates have more than five. This after having 96 pins among his 170 wins (a Belle Vernon school record) in 195 bouts over four years of high school.
“Just my mindset, especially with how my dad raised me,” Hartman said of all the pins. “He taught me that if I want something I have to go get it — and obviously, I have to be in attack mode to go get what I want. I wasn’t taught to be passive and taught that things will come to you. I was more taught to be on the attack mode for absolutely anything in life.
“So it just so happens that carries over into wrestling. And it’s been working out.”
The 2018 honoree of the Ronald L. Garrison Award as the WPIAL’s outstanding senior wrestler, Hartman carries a 26-7 record into the NCAA championships that begin March 21 at PPG Paints Arena. Hartman was the 157-pound runner-up at last weekend’s Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships.
One of only three freshmen ranked in the top 20 in the nation in his weight class, Hartman gets to compete for a national title in his home city.
“I have been looking forward to (NCAAs) ever since I got on campus,” Hartman said. “That was one of my big goals in high school was to actually be able to wrestle in NCAAs and place there eventually. Now, this year, with the way I have been wrestling, I feel real confident in actually being an All-American.”
Hartman has four wins against ranked opponents this season, lending credence to the possibility he could place in the top eight at nationals and get onto the podium (which earns “All-American” designation).
He placed three times at the PIAA championships during his high school career and thrice was named a high school All-American by the National High School Coaches Association.
“We really like our guy, I can tell you that,” Wirnsberger said. “And we really like his chances.”
Among Hartman’s strengths on the mat — other than aggressiveness, of course — is his wrestling IQ. A pre-med major, Hartman isn’t reckless with his attack-first mentality.
“I look up to him, honestly,” said junior teammate Drew Phipps, a Bucknell team captain. “He’s only a freshman, and I look up to him. He’s probably — definitely — one of the toughest workers in the room, and he does everything right.”
Among the highlights of Hartman’s true freshman season came at the prestigious Midlands tournament in December in Chicago. Hartman took third place, beating a pair of ranked wrestlers in the process.
Wirnsberger insists that none of Hartman’s early success has come as a surprise to him.
“Zach is really ultra competitive. He competes,” Wirnsberger said. “What makes him so good is he competes really hard in the practice room. He cares in the practice room and puts his best effort and his best foot forward each and every day. Whether we’re lifting weights, whether we are conditioning, whether we are running, whether we are drilling, whether we are in live combat… he’s ultra competitive. And any time you’re competitive like that, that carries over into the competition arena.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .