Injuries slow Hart’s bid for state championship
By: Devon Moore
Thursday, March 21, 2019 | 10:59 PM
Hampton wrestling coach Chris Hart preaches it: You always can take more from a loss from a win.
The Hampton wrestling team suffered plenty of losses this season, many of them injuries. Some of its top talent, such as state qualifier Ty Kocak and WPIAL-title hopeful Dawson Dietz, were unable to perform near the end of the season.
That left 195-pound sophomore Justin Hart as the Talbots’ only wrestler at the PIAA tournament.
But even he was bitten by the injury bug in the semifinals of the Allegheny County Duals in mid-January. The knee and ankle injury sidelined him for nearly a month, helping dash his ability to maximize his potential.
“The way he started the season, if he’d have finished that way, he’d have been the state champion, if not in the top three,” Chris Hart said.
“But the season didn’t unfold that way. Wrestling is a brutal sport. Most guys are banged up when it comes time for March. Some are just more banged up than others.”
Hart was healthy enough to cruise through the section tournament and take fourth at WPIALs before finishing just outside the top eight at states.
After winning his first match over Big Spring’s Hunter Hefflefinger by fall, he was called for a controversial penalty point down 4-3 against Liberty’s Damen Moyer, which contributed to a 7-3 defeat.
He made it through Souderton’s Bruno Stolfi with another fall before losing 11-2 to No. 2 Cole Urbas.
“I couldn’t really do anything,” Hart said. “I was just trying to keep up on cardio. At the end of the season, my gas tank wasn’t really where I wanted it to be. I did what I could.”
Hart finished 31-7, with more than half of those losses coming in the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments. His loss to eventual WPIAL champion Max Shaw of Thomas Jefferson in the county tournament was a continuation of a rivalry that started last year in the same tournament at 182, where Hart got the better of Shaw.
Still, he thinks the season was one of personal growth.
“I think I definitely improved, even in my wrestling,” he said. “I didn’t get to wrestle as much, but I still think I improved a lot with my positioning and mentally, just fighting through the injury and not giving up really helped out.”
Likewise, Chris Hart was happy to see his nephew show a good attitude after the state tournament.
“He was frustrated because he worked so hard this offseason,” Chris Hart said. “He started off lights-out. But to fall short of your goal is always frustrating, but I tell all my guys including him, you have to take the positive out of every loss.
“That last loss hurt him, but he immediately rebounded, (and) said to me and his dad, ‘I want to wrestle nationals.’ He took third last year in those, so on the way home he was already motivated, and he was back in the gym working today.”