Short-handed Hampton wrestling earning wins the hard way
In wrestling, team performance often reflects depth, rather than wins and losses.
That’s something Hampton (7-3, 4-1) has had to learn this season after losing several wrestlers to injury.
“Obviously, it’s one of our team goals to build upon the success we had last year,” said coach Chris Hart, whose team finished 20-3 last season with a schedule that emphasized dual meets more than individual matches.
Sophomore Dawson Dietz, a PIAA tournament hopeful at 220 pounds, was lost to a shoulder injury, as was Cameron Rakar at 106. Highly touted freshman Connor Cummins remains in concussion protocol.
That adds up to missing two to three weight classes per match.
“I have to do whatever I can to make a roster competitive,” said Hart, who at times has moved WPIAL No. 5 Justin Hart (195, 19-3) up a weight class to fill a void.
“I challenged the kids. They know they have to get every bonus point they can get. They know the difference between a major decision, a tech fall and a pin.”
It’s a testament to the Talbots it ended 7-3 overall and 4-1 Section 3-AAA, good enough for second place and a spot in the WPIAL playoffs regardless of how the section tournament pans out.
“It’s tough when you know you’re giving up 12 or 18 points,” Hart said. “It’s tough to beat the powerhouses of the WPIAL that way. Our kids are doing the best they can.”
Hampton had a strong showing in a number of weight classes at the Allegheny County tournament, though Justin Hart missed his chance to repeat, dropping a 3-2 decision to No. 1 Max Shaw (22-0) of Thomas Jefferson in the 195 final.
Hart won the tournament as a freshman at 182 last year.
“I always tell my guys you generally get more out of a loss than a win,” Chris Hart said. “You learn from those mistakes. Justin wrestled on a sprained ankle. He was taped up. He wanted to be the first four-time winner, but he thinks they’ll see each other again in the WPIAL finals.”
Junior Zach Wright (126, 16-3) cemented his status as a state tournament contender with a second-place performance, defeating North Allegheny’s Freddy Junko twice in three days after a section meet earlier in the week.
State qualifier and WPIAL No. 5 Tyler Kocak (145, 16-5) finished in fourth place.
Sophomores Corey Scherer (170, 11-6) and Gage Galuska (152, 11-7) have been wrestling up a weight class. Both had solid tournament performances, with Scherer finishing sixth.
“I’m always pleased when a kid wrestles up a weight class and has success,” Hart said. “Corey is building up a lot of confidence as a young sophomore. Gage is having a great year. Giving up that eight to 10 pounds is difficult.”
Other notables include senior Josh Campbell (11-5), who finished fifth.
“He’s battled through some injuries this year,” Hart said of Campbell, who has qualified for WPIALs each of his four years.
“I know he wanted to finish his senior year as county champ. But I tell all these guys, our goals are geared toward the end of the season.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.