CLASS OF 2019: Two-sport champion Joe Hart to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
Joe Hart has a simple approach to success — be better today than you were yesterday.
“One of the big things I believe in, not just in sports but in life, is that my today is going to be better than my yesterday,” Hart said of his continual desire to improve.
“I just had this drive to do better in everything I did,” said Hart, when talking about his days competing at Nevada Union. “I wanted to be the best. And, in a lot of cases, I wasn’t. But, my mentality was always, I’ll get there.”
That approach paid off for Hart, who was a two-sport star at Nevada Union, helping the football and wrestling teams to Sac-Joaquin Section championships. The 1995 NU graduate also garnered multiple individual titles and accolades along the way. Hart was a leader among his teammates and always represented the Miners with integrity, intensity, dedication and discipline. For his efforts as a Miner and beyond, Hart is being inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“It’s an honor,” said Hart. “It doesn’t get extended to everyone. And, during my era we had some phenomenal athletes, I mean a lot of them. For me, I take pride in the idea that I performed to a certain level. I had great teammates and coaches around me to help me attain the different accomplishments I had.”
On the mat, Hart shined all four years he competed on the Miners’ varsity wrestling squad.
As a freshman, competing at 145-pounds, he went undefeated in league duals and won the league title in his weight class.
As a sophomore, he moved up to the 152-pound class and continued his league dominance before going on to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in his weight class.
In his junior year, Hart was named a team captain and was once again undefeated in league bouts. He won the sub-section title in his weight class, was the Sac-Joaquin Section runner up and placed third at the State Championships.
Hart was a captain in his senior season as well. He went unbeaten in league bouts to complete a four-year sweep against league foes. He won the sub-section tourney again, took third at the Sac-Joaquin Section championships and placed second at the State tourney. He was chosen to participate with the California National team where he finished second in the state in both freestyle and greco. Hart was named to the All-Metro Wrestling Team in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
For Hart, who first started wrestling when he was 12, it wasn’t that he was more technically proficient or skilled than his opponents, rather he just wanted to win more.
“I didn’t have any really technical moves, great skill or savvy … I just went hard,” said Hart. “I wrestled to break my opponent mentally and I knew what that took. I understood the type of conditioning it took to get there.”
During Hart’s four year run on the wrestling team, the Miners won four straight league championships and claimed the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Section Championship as a team in 1995.
Over on the gridiron, Hart helped the Miners win back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section titles (1993, 1994) as a defensive end and running back.
During Hart’s four seasons of football, including freshman and junior varsity, his teams went 44-2 overall. He earned All-League Second Team honors as a defensive end his junior season.
“He was a great player for us,” said Dave Humphers, a fellow Class of 2019 Hall of Fame inductee who coached Hart on the football team. “He played very hard, treated his teammates well and had great leadership skills. That ‘94 team had some tough, hard-nosed kids who were difficult to coach sometimes, and it was great having him bring some really solid leadership and keep everybody going in the right direction.”
Leadership was something that came naturally to Hart, and he understood the importance of leading by example.
“The big thing about leadership is whatever you decide will come out of your mouth, you have to stand by that, you have to live that, and I did,” he said. “I was a straight arrow, I wasn’t out partying or doing anything I wasn’t supposed to. It doesn’t make me anything special and it’s not a judgement thing, I just made sure to give 100% to my school, 100% to my athletics and I made sure I didn’t convolute that with anything else.”
COMPETING IN COLLEGE
Hart’s athletic ability drew plenty of attention from colleges. Some Division II and D-III schools offered him a chance to do both wrestling and football while attending, but the only D-I offers were from schools that wanted him to wrestle exclusively. Yearning to compete at the highest level, Hart dropped football, his first love, and decided to attend and wrestle for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“I loved football, I just happen to be really good at wrestling,” he said with a laugh.
He wrestled for three years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1997-2000). During the 1998-99 season, Hart was the California State runner up in his weight class and finished fourth in the Pac-10. He left Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science degree.
With his experience and affinity for athletics in his hometown, Hart is dedicated to giving back to the community he grew up in. He takes great pride in coaching the young athletes at Goldmine Wrestling Club and Junior Miners football.
“Just being able to coach in my home town — for the same programs that molded my journey — is amazing and surreal,” he said. “I am lucky, blessed even. It’s wonderful to be part of the coaching community here as there are so many men and women giving their time to enrich the youth in similar fashion that I had experienced 30 plus years ago. I find great joy being part of this chapter in our community’s history. My hope is if we can just do better than we did the day, week, month, season before, we will see the results.”
GRATEFUL FOR THE BLESSINGS
Hart expressed gratitude for his parents, Joe and Nella Hart, who were always there supporting him, as well as his siblings in whatever athletic endeavor they pursued. He also thanked his wrestling coach Steve Pilcher for being a great mentor on and off the mat. He also thanked football coaches Humphers, Gary Sharpe and Bruce Kinseth for believing in his ability to compete and lead.
“I’m blessed,” Hart said. “I couldn’t have done it without my parents, couldn’t have done it without the coaches around me, the mentors, my teammates and my faith. God endowed me with abilities. I took what he gave me and I gave it the best run I could with it. And, it yielded results that were fun. I enjoyed a great life during that time frame.”
Hart is the father of four and currently lives in Nevada City.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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