Underclassmen lead Hampton wrestlers to record season
Thursday, March 19, 2020 | 10:05 PM
Last year, a rash of injuries ran Hampton wrestling off track. It was only a matter of time, however, before this group made history.
Hampton’s wrestlers, who had been fighting through dual meets all year with multiple forfeits, shined in the WPIAL championships. When it was all said and done, the team sent a record four competitors to Giant Center in Hershey for states.
The previous record was coach Chris Hart’s senior year in 1993, when the team sent three, himself included.
“Four section champs and four state qualifiers,” Hart said. “But having four of them in the placement round, it was tough seeing the heartbreak and disappointment.”
There was a feeling of missed opportunity. Only senior Ty Kocak (eighth) walked away with a medal.
But the disappointment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it stems from a first-match surge that saw all four wrestlers advance in the championship bracket.
“It was cool seeing us on the leaderboard, having all four of them in position to be winners at the state level,” Hart said.
Three of the wrestlers — senior Zach Wright and juniors Justin Hart and Dawson Dietz — lost in the medal round. Two of them will have one more opportunity next season.
Hart (40-5), who qualified for the third time after posting a third-place finish at 182 pounds at WPIALs, lost a 7-4 decision against Downingtown West’s Maximus Hale, the No. 1 seed from the Southwest in the second round.
“He didn’t wrestle a very good semifinals at WPIALs,” Hart said. “I thought a better match would have put him in a better position at states.”
Hart showed elite talent and toughness at times at WPIALs, going down 8-0 against eventual state runner-up Donovan McMillan of Peters Township in the semifinals before battling back to make it a 10-6 decision.
“At the end of the day, to be the best, you have to beat the best, and we just didn’t perform well enough to do that,” Hart said. “But it’s going to drive him and motivate him.”
The other junior state hopeful next year feels the same way. Dawson Dietz (40-11), who wrestled at heavyweight before bumping down to 220 before the section tournament, made his first state appearance after injury derailed his sophomore campaign.
Dietz became known as a pin artist, compiling 32 of his 40 wins this season by fall. He continued that trend at states, pinning his first and third opponents.
A 5-3 setback in the consolation bracket to Dustin Swanson of Garden Spot was the only thing that kept him off the podium.
“Knowing how close I got this year is just going to push me harder next year,” said Dietz, who fell behind 5-0 to Swanson and couldn’t catch up. “He got up big on me right away. I started getting points back, but he just stalled out the rest of the match.”
Hart thought Dietz “wrestled a fantastic tournament,” and lauded him for making the switch to 220.
“It was a very big mental challenge he took on,” Hart said. “It took a lot from his diet and work ethic. I knew he’d catch some people by surprise. The section tournament was the first official match he was eligible at 220. Nobody had really seen him there.”
Though his tournament opponents were mostly unfamiliar ones, Dietz liked how he could use a combination of his size and skill at 220.
“I liked the experience,” he said. “I’m a faster heavyweight. Dropping down, I can use those techniques but also use my quickness because I’m right around 220. It made it a lot easier.”
Aside from the two juniors, another underclassman who impressed at WPIALs was Jayden Resch (13-11), who earned a win over A.J. Palumbo of Penn Hills.
A natural in the 170-pound weight class, Resch wrestled up two weight classes at 195 this season because of Kocak and Hart. With Kocak graduating, great things could be on the horizon for Resch.
“As a sophomore giving up that much weight, for him to qualify for WPIALs is an achievement in itself,” Hart said. “He wrestled a great tournament. He’s a hard-working kid, and I’m excited for him to be in the lineup full time and wrestle his current weight.”
More High School Sports• Shady Side Academy rower wins youth national title
• Bethel Park lacrosse goalkeeper Owen Peters makes Division I commitment
• Longtime girls lacrosse coach helps game grow at Bethel Park
• Penn Hills youth football organization marks 75th anniversary with new technology
• Westmoreland high school notebook: Hempfield football leaning on strength coach Cortazzo