PALM HARBOR — In the five-plus years Brad Sakevich has steered the Palm Harbor University wrestling program, the Hurricanes have transformed from a middling also-ran to a formidable state contender.
Playing a featured role in accelerating that rapid ascension has been current 145-pounder Aaron Hartman.
With three total state silver medals and much high-level national recognition on his resume, the senior is PHU’s most accomplished wrestler in school history.
All that success was both celebrated and justified on campus Wednesday afternoon.
Hartman officially signed his national letter of intent to wrestle at Hofstra University on Long Island. In doing so, Sakevich announced that Hartman became PHU’s second male to ever sign a full-ride athletic scholarship since the school opened in 1996.
“Most of all he’s a good kid,” Sakevich said of his star wrestler following the signing. “He’s helped push the program up over the top because he’s a kid you can build a program around.
“When Aaron is on and wants to wrestle and train he’s one of the best kids in the country. That’s evident by getting the offer for the scholarship.”
Hartman, who made his verbal commitment to the Pride last year, will join former PHU wrestler Mike May at Hofstra next fall. Pride assistant coach Dan Vallimont, a former All-American at Penn State, grew up in the same New Jersey township as Sakevich and trained under him as a youth.
“I’ve been looking at Hofstra for a while now,” Hartman said before joining Sakevich and his parents on stage to sign in front of about 40 teammates and friends. “I’ve always liked the school so it’s time to sign now and I’m super excited.”
Before he gets to New York, though, athlete and coach said there is some unfinished high school business to take care of in the Sunshine State. Hartman finished second at the Class 3A state meet last year, fifth as a sophomore and second as a freshman. He also took silver at the Class 1A meet as an eighth grader while attending Northside Christian.
At a more natural weight of 145 as opposed to wrestling at 152 last year, Hartman said he’s ready to get over the hump.
“This is my year,” he said. “I’m just focused on getting my state title. I’m going to do it this year.”
In addition to Hartman’s performances at state meets, he’s PHU’s first wrestler to win a freshman National High School Coaches Association championship and only USA Wrestling Junior Greco-Roman All-American.
He can also become PHU’s first four-time district champ, three-time region champ and four-time Pinellas County Athletic Association champ with titles this season.