Hampton’s Hart holds up wrestling tradition

Monday, March 19, 2018 | 12:27 AM

Justin Hart comes from a lineage of wrestling success at Hampton. This year, it was his turn. He's off to a good start.

Hart proved himself at the WPIAL tournament, earning fourth in the 182-pound weight class with a victory over Bethel Park's Noah Seeberger in a dramatic 4-3 overtime ultimate tiebreaker.

Hart, along with fellow sophomore Tyler Kocak, became the first Hampton wrestlers to qualify for states since 2013, when a familiar name took home gold from Hershey.

Hart's brother, Jake, had an esteemed career, amassing a 143-21 record. He was also a three-time state qualifier, including his freshman year in 2010 — when he, too, placed fourth at WPIALs.

“I'm pretty happy with what I did,” said Hart. “I had a great season. I wanted to do a lot better in states and place top eight.”

For perspective on Hart's accomplishment, consider that out of the 20-wrestler field in his weight class, 18 were either juniors or seniors. There was one sophomore and Hart — the lone freshman.

“It was a good freshman campaign for him,” said coach Chris Hart, Justin's uncle. “I know he was disappointed in falling short. But it's not always about the success you have. It's about failing and getting better.”

Most freshmen don't see that type of success in the higher weight classes. While younger grapplers can dominate lower weight classes, the weight and muscle development of heavier kids who are sometimes three or four years older makes winning harder.

“You're wrestling grown men at that point,” Chris Hart said. “You draw upon that experience, learn from it, and change what you can do differently.”

The coach also noted how strength training can fall by the wayside in the middle of the season.

“It's a big difference,” Justin Hart said of wrestling some of the top upperclassmen in the state. “I need to get a lot stronger. I was kind of light for my weight this year at 175. I would like to up my weight to 182 … just get my weight up a bit.”

After a 4-2 first-round decision over Parkland's Adam Lizak, Hart's PIAA journey came to a halt without shame. He lost by fall to Josh Stillings from Pennridge. Stillings, a Drexel commit ranked No. 1 in the state, would go on to win the tournament.

“I can tell you this,” Chris Hart said. “He earned Stillings' respect. It was a 4-2 match. He got taken down and got caught on his back and pinned.”

Hart also can look to his fellow WPIAL competitors' performance in Hershey to gauge how far he has come in a short amount of time.

Albert Gallatin's Tim Wallace, Thomas Jefferson's Max Shaw and Butler's Christian Sequete finished second, third, and fourth. Hart wrestled Sequete tough throughout the season in a handful of decision losses and was victorious over Shaw in the Allegheny County wrestling championships in January.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” he said. “Next year, a lot of those guys are going to be gone. So that might open things up a little for me.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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