Hampton wrestling out to build upon last season’s success
By: Devon Moore
Thursday, December 6, 2018 | 9:27 PM
The Hampton wrestling team is ready for its second act, and nearly all the main characters are returning.
The Talbots were a surprise last season, posting a 20-3 record and sending eight wrestlers — all underclassmen — to WPIAL qualifiers.
“We’re still really young,” second-year coach Chris Hart said. “We’re going to have four starting freshmen coming up from junior high, and only a handful of seniors.”
The seniors will be led by three-time WPIAL qualifier Josh Campbell (113 pounds) and Liam Helon (152), a one-time qualifier.
“It was just really exciting,” Helon said about offseason training. “Our work ethic and the extra competition, it just helped us push each other. It’s a good brothership that we’ve formed.”
Though the work didn’t happen overnight, the results came quickly. The team made the second round of the WPIAL playoffs before losing to Canon-McMillan.
“The three losses were all to teams that were top 10 in the state, in my opinion: Canon-McMillan, Hempfield and Seneca Valley,” Hart said. “We’re going to build on that. We have a couple holes. Some kids were going to come out but didn’t.”
The main concern is heavyweight. In certain matches, Hart might be able to adjust based on matchups. In others, it will be a forfeit.
“I told the kids we can’t control that,” Hart said. “But we can control our individual effort on the mat, scoring bonus points, getting a fall when you have to. That’s going to keep us competitive.”
Bringing back two state qualifiers in junior Tyler Kocak and sophomore Justin Hart helps. Both bulked up for the new season. Kocak, who carries a 60-12 record, will jump from 120 to 145.
“Ty looks so good this year,” Hart said. “He did really well at the Super 32 (tournament) in Charlotte. He definitely put on some muscle. I look for some really good things to come from him.”
The same goes for Hart’s nephew Justin, who was the only freshman to qualify for the state tournament at 182 last season. As a sophomore, he will look to wrestle at 195, though he could elevate a weight class when needed.
Hart suffered a tough 1-0 loss Hollidaysburg’s Mason McCready that prevented placing at states. He entered the offseason on a mission.
“I think that drove him,” Coach Hart said. “The following week, he competed at the National High School Duals in Virginia. Lost in the first round then won seven straight, took third place.
“That propelled him to put in a lot of time in the offseason. I look for him to compete for a WPIAL and state championship at 195.”
Other WPIAL qualifiers to watch include Dawson Dietz, who had a breakout freshman campaign, going 28-11 at 220.
“When I look at who is at 220, I can see him in the WPIAL finals,” Hart said. “There’s great competition, but he doesn’t shy away from anybody. He’s matured so much mentally and physically.”
Zach Wright has been a steady force at 126 as a WPIAL qualifier, and will be looking to take the next step.
“Really excited for Zach to have one of those breakout years,” Coach Hart said. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. He’s one of the hardest working guys in the room.”
Other returning WPIAL qualifiers include sophomores Gage Galuska at 152 or 160 and Conrad Harold (170). Sophomore Corey Scherer, who wrestled at 170 last year, is nursing a hip injury but is expected to return.
Scherer, who had a hat trick for the Talbots’ soccer team in the playoffs, is not the only budding multisport athlete. Freshman Jayden Resch earned a starting spot as middle linebacker of the football team and will hope for similar success at 182.
“He’s doing fantastic,” Coach Hart said. “We’re looking for some really big things from him on the mat that will also propel him on the football field.”
Three other freshmen expected to make an immediate impact are John McGuire (132), Jake Premick (138) and Jack Koren, who will share time with sophomore Cameron Rakar at 106.
The most impactful freshman might be Connor Cummins. The talented newcomer placed sixth in the state at the junior high level at 167 and will wrestle at 160 or 170 upon his return.
“We knew we had something special last year,” Helon said. “I think bringing in the freshmen, we just encouraged them. I think our intensity and work ethic in practice is even more than it was. We’re really excited for this year. We know we won’t be a surprise to anybody.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.