It’s the dog days of summer, which oftentimes is when wrestlers separate themselves from the pack.
Good coaches also do not rest, and after opening LTD Wrestling Club in Etna more than a year ago, Hampton’s Chris Hart still is working hard at it.
“Summer is where you grow and get better, experiment with different things and learn the fun part of the sport,” he said. “You’re not cutting weight or anything. You’re just getting better and working on things.”
While Hart would like to see more wrestlers at the gym, he describes his group as “a nice, small group of dedicated kids” who show up Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
The coaching staff features decades of instruction and expertise. Hart and co-founder Brian Zimmerman are joined by Kraig Nellis, a former Clarion standout who is on the Shaler Area staff, and former Hampton coach Joe Bursick, who will join Hart’s staff in the winter as an assistant.
Bursick was coach at Hampton for 22 years before a hiatus. He then coached at Fox Chapel for four years.
He has helped in the week-to-week efforts at LTD and was instrumental in orchestrating a trip to the National High School Coaches Association Duals in Virginia Beach, where nearly 200 club and state teams competed during Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s all dual-team driven, and there’s teams all around the country,” said Hart, who went with a group of local wrestlers, along with two from the eastern part of the state. The team went 3-3 overall.
“This year, we just tried to put it together, and we kind of did it pretty quickly. The kids that wrestled had a lot of fun, saw some great competition. I was really proud and happy. Joe did a great job putting the team together.”
Back in Etna, it’s more than just young wrestlers getting valuable experience. Two-time state qualifier Justin Hart and WPIAL qualifier Zach Wright also have provided assistance in instruction.
“It’s always good to help coach,” said Hart. “When you teach, you learn. It really kind of puts things together when you demonstrate teaching. It’s good growth for our high school guys.”
While Chris Hart admits he wants the club to grow, he is adamant about his message to prospective students and parents to try other places for new experiences.
“I think we’re the type of club that encourages kids to go to other clubs,” he said. “We don’t sit there and say you have to wrestle for us. There are so many good clubs in the area between NA Tiger, OMP, Mat Factory. There’s some great coaches. I think that’d be a crucial mistake with all the great Western PA coaching out there.”
For those who attend, they can expect to learn about the sport with drills, teaching and live wrestling — without being overwhelmed.
“We’re not trying to burn guys out but give them enough time to absorb what we’re teaching,” said Hart, who also maintains a flexible schedule for private lessons prior to practice or on off-days.
“We want people to take advantage of the opportunity, so Brian and I have made that commitment.
“We’re just trying to grow, and we’re at that crossroads where we need more kids. It’s tough because you’re not getting as many new kids. But the ones that are coming are getting better. … You just always want to coach and teach more kids.”