Jake Hart won 54 wrestling matches this past season, but it was the Fort Mill senior’s lone loss that probably did the most for his future.
Hart entered the season with some recruiting interest, but nothing like what he received after wrestling well and finishing third at the Beast of the East tournament in December, 2017.
“I didn’t know if D-I, if I was really cut out for it,” said Hart. “But after wrestling the really good guys really close and beating a lot of good kids, it became more of a reality."
Hart began to hear from much bigger schools and he ended up signing with Virginia Tech. Hart's loss to David Carr at the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware ended up his only defeat of the season. Hart went undefeated in the Carolinas and won the Southern Slam, the Yellow Jacket Classic, the Fandetti Richardson (Tenn.) tournament, the Coastal Clash, and the Region 4-5A and Upper State championships. He continued his winning run at the state championship, winning the 152-pound state title and earning the 5A tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
Hart is The Herald’s 2018 All-Area wrestler of the year.
“He loves the sport. You can’t have that level of success doing it seasonally or part-time,” said Fort Mill coach Chris Brock. “He spends his entire year, and has since he was just a little young kid. So, time on the mat, a love for the sport and he does have an unusual feel for it. Very strong, fast hips, can score points very quickly. His style is sort of full throttle. He just lets it fly. Sort of a bull in a China shop, if you will, and it’s worked for him.”
Hart's state championship was a perfect cap to his senior year and a bit of sweet redemption after losing in the final in 2017. He was back at practice the day after the loss.
“I wasn’t gonna lose again,” Hart said.
Hart didn't focus on an undefeated senior season, but rather having fun. The high level of tournaments he entered made an unblemished record unlikely anyway, and he was an unknown at many of them so he had little to lose. David Carr, for example, comes from a family of Olympic wrestlers and was one of the top recruits in the country.
“Jake gained more by losing to Carr than Carr gained by beating him,” said Brock. “He wrestled him tight, he put him in trouble a little bit. That bull in a China shop style that he has, he can put people in trouble and I think that’s what most people were impressed by.”
It wasn't 15 minutes after Hart held Carr to a decision win that Brock's phone began to buzz with calls from interested college coaches.
“Performing so well on such a big stage against a household name in the sport, that really grabbed a lot of attention,” Brock said. “Sometimes a loss is a win. Couldn’t be more true in this case.”
Fort Mill: Jake Hart (5A 152)
Indian Land: Solomon Cortez (3A 106), Austin Ross (3A 113)
Rock Hill: Bailey Wilkins (5A 132), Noah Reynolds (5A 160)
York: Kaleem Heard (4A 106)
Chester: Javier Gonzales (132), LyTerrence Mills (145), Chauldray Evans (152), Terrence Mills (160), Teddy Murphy (220).
Clover: Luke Brown (126), Ryan Jones (138).
Fort Mill: Ethan Johnson (106), Jacob Sturgeon (120), Zach Hornbrook (126), Brody Claassen (138), Josh Cizmadia (145), Jake Hart (152).
Indian Land: Solomon Cortez (106), Austin Ross (113), Weston Nguyen (120), Teddy Yarborough (132), Kyle Daley (152), Alfred Cortez (182), Raul Neil (195).
Lancaster: Immanuel Bush (285).
Nation Ford: Dylan Tindall (126).
Northwestern: Derek Covington (145), Kadarius Davis (152), Mison Mickle (160), Teddy Mauney (170), Gavin Mahony (182), Christian Steele (195).
Rock Hill: Justin Beck (113), Danny Love (120), Bailey Wilkins (132), Noah Reynolds (160), Brandon Mills (182), Devan Rice (285).
South Pointe: Kemari Reaves (106), Pearson Borders (120), ShyQuan Ferguson (126), MSavion White (152), Isaac Ekonem (170), Jake Morgan (220).
York: Kaleem Heard (106), Jackson Rumfelt (113), Tanner Culbertson (120).
Clover: Luke Brown (126), Ryan Jones (138)
Fort Mill: Ethan Johnson (106), Jake Hart (152), Jack Kelley (220).
Nation Ford: N/A
Northwestern: Derek Covington (145), Mison Mickle (160), Teddy Mauney (170), Christian Steele (195).
Rock Hill: Justin Beck (113), Danny Love (120), Bailey Wilkins (126), Andrew Simpson (132), Brandon Mills (182), Devon Rice (285).
South Pointe: Matthew Belk (132), Eric Mitchell (138), Morgan Belk (145), Isaac Ekanem (170), Jai Davis (195), Jake Morgan (220).
York: Kaleem Heard (106), Luke Rumfelt (113), Tanner Culbertson (120).
Chester: Javier Gonzales (132), LyTerrence Mills (145), Terrence Mills (160), Teddy Murphy (220).
Indian Land: Solomon Cortez (106), Austin Ross (113), Weston Nguyen (120); Juan Alejandro (126), Xavier Dreese (138), Kyle Daley (152), Alfred Cortez (182).