Healthy Hampton could pose problems for mat opponents

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 | 11:39 PM


After a breakout year in 2017 and with nearly every major competitor returning, Hampton’s wrestling team seemed primed to take a step forward to WPIAL title contender last season.

Those plans were dashed by a rash of injuries. Seven wrestlers missed time — five with season-ending ailments — as Hampton’s momentum fizzled into a first-round WPIAL playoff exit.

But rumors of the team’s demise are greatly exaggerated. With two state qualifiers back to full strength and a handful of WPIAL and state qualifiers in the mix, the Talbots could make noise.

“It’s just nice to have the core group of guys back,” said coach Chris Hart, in his third year with a program he has helped revitalize. “The ones that had season-ending injuries are back healthier than ever right now.

“We still have some holes and will have to forfeit, bounce around and juggle to stay as competitive as we need to be, but I still like our chances against whoever we match up with.”

The most notable matchup issues for other teams will be Justin Hart (195 pounds) and senior Ty Kocak (170,) both of whom have made the trip to Hershey before.

Hart finished eighth at states in March with a 31-7 record. By his standards, it was a disappointing sophomore season. The state title hopeful tore ligaments in his ankle before a county championship match with eventual state third-place finisher Max Shaw in January. He missed time until March and never fully recovered.

“He did a good job over the summer working out and lifting,” Chris Hart said of his nephew. “Had a couple of injuries and illnesses over the summer that prevented him from competing in some of the tournaments. … You can see that desire in his eyes.”

Kocak is Hart’s first Division I wrestling commit. He recently signed with George Mason.

The senior missed the section tournament last season after competing in states as a sophomore at 120. Additionally, he broke his femur in the Bucknell Duals this summer. He made a full recovery, hit another big growth spurt and moved from 145 to 170.

“What’s nice is now that he’s bigger, having him and Justin practice every day can elevate both of them,” Chris Hart said. “Our goal is to get Ty in that top-four spot in the PIAA. There’s no doubt he has the talent to win the state title. He just has to stay healthy and keep working.”

Senior Zac Wright (132) has been trying to break through the WPIAL tournament barrier since his sophomore year.

Last season, he won the Section 3 tournament and finished 30-9 at 126 pounds. He will wrestle a class up.

“This year, we want to get him on the podium in the PIAA,” Hart said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids in the room and a great leader to us.”

Others returning from injury include three-year letterwinner Cam Rakar (106), sophomore Jayden Resch, and juniors Conrad Harold and Corey Scherer (182), and junior Dawson Dietz (220/heavyweight). Dietz could be primed for a big season after a 28-win freshman campaign two years ago.

“This year, he just seems really eager and hungry to get on the mat,” Hart said. “I’ve never seen the excitement that he has now. He has the talent to qualify for states and get on that podium.”

Sophomore Connor Cummings (152), a junior high state placewinner, had his much anticipated debut delayed last season because of injury. Sophomore Alan Wolfe and freshman Ben Haselrig will also see time at that weight class.

Multitalented junior Gage Galuska, a starting wideout on the football team and WPIAL qualifier in track, will get the nod at 160.

“He’s a really scrappy kid,” Hart said. “Great athlete, really good football player. Just a hard-working kid and all-around good athlete. He’s growing and we’re hoping for a WPIAL podium this year.”

The team will see more turnover at the lighter weight classes with sophomore Jack Koren (113) replacing four-year starter Josh Campbell, and juniors Nick Gianuzzi (120) and Ryan Olszewski (126) returning to the sport after two-year hiatuses.

Sophomore Jacob Premick (138) and Jon Maguire (145) lettered last season as well. Additional contributors include senior first-year wrestler Reese Carter (160) and Keegan Berzonski (heavyweight), who is currently on the shelf with an injury.

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