Trinity state champ Hardister discovers right combinations

Gavin Hardister reacts at the end of the state final. (Photo provided)

TRINITY – Gavin Hardister had a solid wrestling background as he came up through high school.

Then the Trinity wrestler made his final season his best when he became a Class 2A state champion last winter.

“I feel like I was always good enough,” he said. “There was always a moment that got in my head. (As a senior), I didn’t let the moment be too big.”

He’ll take the next step soon as he heads to Iowa Western Community College, which is a National Junior College Athletic Association power.

A lot went into this growing journey for Hardister, everything from gaining faith to adding strength.

The spiritual aspect developed during the past year. He said that became critical for him on and off the mats.

“I got very close to God,” he said. “Before every match, I just prayed and that got into my mentality.”

Hardister competed for Providence Grove as a freshman before his final three seasons for Trinity.

“We thought he would do better than he did the two prior years,” Trinity coach Brandon Coggins said of the postseason.

Hardister refused to relinquish his bid to be a champion even after disappointments as a sophomore and junior.

“Just showing if you don’t do well in states or a tournament, you always have that chance as a senior,” he said.

Hardister, who won the states as a 215-pounder, pinned more than 60 percent of his opponents during the past season. It became a habit.

“He’s a state champ and he’s good in all positions,” Coggins said.

That became evident in numerous situations, though often matches ended quickly. Coggins said Hardister’s go-to moves often resulted in him catching opponents in moves that would be too difficult to escape once they fell to the mat.

Hardister regularly showed the ability to work for pins from the top position, gaining head control and turning opponents. It hadn’t always been that way.

“The No. 1 flaw about my wrestling is my top,” he said. “I just basically wrestled until the whistle. A lot of people thought I wasn’t that strong, but I just manhandled them.”

Hardister, at 6-foot-1, made a commitment to becoming stronger through weightlifting prior to his final season. He also packed on weight up to about 240 pounds before shedding the bulk prior to the season. He said he increased his bench press from 180 pounds to 270.

Then he gained confidence by winning three matches in the Super 32 tournament, a national-level competition last fall in Greensboro.

Hardister suffered his only loss during the past high school season to Class 3A state champion Xavier Wilson of Eastern Guilford in overtime.

The recruiting process was slow to develop for Hardister, 18. He said he’s thankful to be joining the Iowa Western team, and he’ll be leaving his part-time job as a breakfast cook for The Biscuit Co. in Randleman.

“I never placed before in states,” he said. “I had to win in states to get offers. I was very late to the scouting process. They gave me a full ride. My (training) partner will be the national champion.”

That will be CJ Carter, the reigning NJCAA heavyweight national champion for Iowa Western.

By Bob Sutton