Hampton wrestler Kocak pleased with trip to Hershey

Monday, March 19, 2018 | 12:18 AM

Tyler Kocak had to wait a year for this moment. But once again, it was a situation he didn't want to be in.

Just like last year, he was facing his last chance at a state tournament qualification, and it wasn't looking good.

Down 3-1 to Kiski Area's Darren Miller with 15 seconds left, Kocak took everything he learned and turned the result on its back.

Kocak scored a last-second takedown on Miller in a 6-3 victory. It propelled him into an eventual fourth-place finish, securing the last spot to Hershey that had slipped through his fingers in 2017.

A year ago in his freshman campaign, he was on the other side of the ledger, finishing fifth in a heartbreaker at 106. One year stronger and two weight classes up at 120, the sophomore has grown on and off the mat.

“Falling short and coming so close, he could really draw on that experience,” Hampton coach Chris Hart said. “Tyler really started to peak at the right time. He got his weight management under control at the right time, which allowed him to train harder at the end of the season.”

Kocak, who credits Hart for helping him reach his potential, admitted he wasn't sure what to expect going into the season moving from 106 to 120 but was nevertheless confident.

“I was a little bit concerned,” he said. “I did gain a bunch of weight, and I got taller. But I felt like I would be fine. I was working in the offseason a lot.”

Kocak, along with teammate Justin Hart, were the first Hampton wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament since 2013. Though he finished 1-2 in Hershey, he was turning in performances Hart hopes is a harbinger of more success to come.

“His results were not indicative of his effort,” said Hart, who noted Kocak's 13-4 major decision over Derek Burk (Mifflin County) before his 1-0 loss to Sean Pierson of Nazareth, who eventually finished in third place.

“Ty outwrestled him,” Hart said. “We had a couple calls that didn't go our way. He was in control of the match and was really wrestling well. Made a bit of a technical mistake there. I know that next time he wrestles, he's not going to make that mistake … He really opened some eyes.”

Kocak admitted nervous excitement on his first trip to Hershey but not for long.

“It was kind of nervewracking stepping out on the mat,” Kocak said. “But when I won my first match, I just felt a lot better and more comfortable.”

Kocak and Hart expect him to wrestle up another weight class. But as the first half of Kocak's high school career closes, he can hang his hat on being one of the best wrestlers Hampton has seen in years, compiling a 60-12 record over his first two seasons.

“He's so athletic and so technical,” Hart said. “I think his mental maturity is kicking in at the right time: in the offseason where it's time to work hard, do some freestyle, Greco and get ready for the season.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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