Athlete of the Week: NMB’s Harmon finds home on mat

North Myrtle Beach High junior Hampton Harmon grew up playing team sports, until he stepped on the wrestling mat for the first time as a seventh-grader.

It wasn’t exactly love at first fight. He continued playing other sports while honing his skill on the mat, but eventually he gave up the others to focus his efforts on wrestling.

The hard work has paid of with the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week Award.

“I played sports like baseball and basketball, but they weren’t physical enough,” Harmon said. “I played football up until this year, but wrestling is the only thing I’ve found with enough physicality to it.

“I love it. When you step out there, it’s nobody but yourself. If something goes wrong, it’s all on you. But if something goes right, you don’t have to give anyone else credit. It’s a great challenge.”

Harmon also enjoys the team element of the sport. His four victories last week, including a win over rival Myrtle Beach, helped the Chiefs finish the season on a strong note, despite failing to qualify for the state tournament.

“Hampton has worked hard this year and shows leadership qualities,” Chiefs coach Andrew Baeli said. “Last week against Myrtle Beach was a big match for him and although we didn’t make it to team duals, he and the team grew more through the win.”

Now Harmon can focus on his personal goal – to make a run at the state championship in the 182-pound class. He is ranked fifth in the state and carries a 26-4 record into the Feb. 18 Lower State tournament, which will be held at North Myrtle Beach.

“I’m excited about it. It absolutely helps to be at home with the fans cheering for you,” Harmon said. “Ultimately, either this year or next year, I want to get as close as I can to that state championship.”

But Harmon’s background in team sports gives him more goals than just individual ones. As a rising senior, he plans to play no other sports so he can focus on wrestling and helping restore the wrestling program’s tradition.

“As a team we had some shortcomings this year, but we have a new coach who is trying to instill values in the program, and he is doing a good job of that,” he said. “When teams wrestled us this year, they knew we were going to battle.”

“We’ve had some great wrestling at North Myrtle Beach in the past and I want to be a part of helping us get back to that level.”

Baeli is looking forward to seeing his rising senior do the same, but first there’s the business of the Class 3A Lower State championships.

“I expect big things from him at Lower States and I think he has set his bar high enough to make it to states,” Baeli said. “The Chiefs expect bigger and brighter things to come from Hampton in the coming weeks and next year.”

Photo by Rancier Photography


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