As many of you may know, Coach Steve Hart has accepted the Women's Head Coaching Position at Buffalo State University starting in the 2024-2025 season. Hart is the first coach ever for the Bengals women's squad and he is wasting no time wrangling up some soon-to-be Bengals. After speaking with Coach Hart, he was elated at the opportunity in front of him. His immediate goal is to build a formidable roster combined with a diverse staff.
"My goal is to support and foster a hard working environment. I am going to help our student athletes on and off the mat." - SH
While speaking with Coach Hart, I couldn't ignore the fact that he bleeds wrestling. You could hear the excitement in his voice, the jubilation in his words and the deep passion he has for supporting and building an empire in Western New York. As stated prior, Hart has wasted no time in the recruiting process. Just recently, hometown sisters Hannah and Breanna McCarley of North Tonawanda became the first-ever recruits in Buffalo St. Women's history. How fitting is that Coach Hart snags two local Femme Fatales that will bring that strong Buffalo grit to the bengal wrestling room. Both sisters saw action for the Lumberjacks last season and expect to make an impactful presence during their senior campaigns. Hannah would finish 4th in the inaugural NYSPHSAA Girls Invitational. She would make the semi-finals before losing to eventual runner-up Mora Peterson of Islip-11, 7-0. During the bronze medal match, Isabella Phelps would best the Lumberjack junior, 4-0. In the quarters, McCarley upended Phelps 13-5 to advance. Sister, Breanna, was in the same bracket, on line 6. She would bolster a 2-2 mark before bowing out in the blood round to Ava Zucker of Jericho-8.
The foot remained on the gas pedal as Section 3 grappler, Selina Moore of Sherburne Earlville, committed a mere hours after the McCarley sisters. Moore will head West and bring a national ranking with her, #30 in the preseason polls. Moore's dominance continues to grow and her presence is becoming more predominant. Selina was a near Fargo AA in 2021, falling in the blood round, and has defeated current #12 in the country, Marissa Rumsey of Maryland earlier this year at the MAWA Eastern Nationals. The future Bengal was on line #2 at the Girls Invitational back in January. Top Seed Zoey Lints of Duanesburg-Schoharie was dominant heading into the finale, registering 3 first period pins. Unphased, Moore went toe-to-toe with Lints and match wit for wit during regulation. The extra stanza would go in favor of Lints however and Moore finishing with a silver medal performance.
Just recently, two others have made their commitment to Buffalo St. Falconer's Summer Senke and West Seneca's Christina Evans are now included in Hart's initial recruiting class. Senske won the 2020 NYSPHSAA S5/S6 Girls Wrestling Invitational at 145lbs in dominant fashion, 3 straight falls en route to the title. Evans finished runner-up at last seasons Girls Invitational "States" at 145lbs. Her signature win came against #2 Seed/2x Fargo AA/#8 in the country Adriana Palumbo of Pleasantville-1, 8-4. The win over Palumbo should garnish some national recognition. Evans took home the bronze medal at the 2023 Eastern States Classic. Her lone loss came against 138lbs NYS Champion Zoey Lints of Duanesburg-Schoharie.
The recruiting trail will not slow down any time soon as Hart has his sights set on wrestlers spanning over multiple sections and even outside the confines of New York State. Hart is hitting the road this weekend and is heading to Super 32. His vision is making Buffalo St. a destination for Women's Wrestling, regardless of where you are from. Recently, he attended the Journeymen Fall Classic and plans to attend the PIAA Girls States as well as the NYS Girls Tournament and Eastern States Classic.
DOUBLE DUTY: THIS MAN LOVES WRESTLING
A bombshell was dropped as Coach Hart will be pulling double-duty during the winter season. Steve will be assisting at St. Francis and the firepower followed him. After the sad debacle that took place at the end of last season at Starpoint, Hart found himself as a "free agent" nonetheless and St. Francis won the lottery in the end landing Hart and his services. St. Francis is headed by long term Head Coach Mike Messore and assistant Ron Lorenz. Lorenz came from Lancaster, where the Legends were a staple in Section 6 during his tenure. Adding Hart into the mix will only enhance the Raiders moving forward.
BUT WAIT....THERE'S MORE! Not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4....that's right.....FOUR impact transfers are following Hart from Starpoint to Athol Springs.
1) Gage LaPlante - 2022 NYS 7th, 3x S6 PF (1-1-5), 2023 ESC Champion, 2023 Powerade 8th, 2023 NHSCA 5th, 2023 JFC 3rd, 2x NE Regional FS PF (2-2), 2022 NE Regional Greco 4th
2) Griffin LaPlante - 2022 NYS 5th, 2022 Section 6 Champion, 2023 ESC 5th, 2x NHSCA PF (4-8), 2x NYS Freestyle PF (1-2), 2023 NYS Greco Champion, 2023 JFC 8th, 2022 NE Regional Greco 6th, 2021 S32 8th
3) Zach Caldwell - 2022 S6 5th, 2023 ESC 8th, 2023 NHSCA 8th, 2023 NYS Freestyle 5th
4) Kole Haseley - 2022 S6 4th
All four wrestlers were focal points in Starpoint's 2023 NYS Dual Meet Championships season. Hart expressed nothing but gratitude and praise towards each wrestler in lieu of the situation at Starpoint and their each individual journeys moving forward.
BUT WAIT.....THERE'S MORE! Section 6 standout Cullen Edwards, formerly of Frontier, also transferred to St. Francis. Edwards is a 2x NYS Qualifier, 2x S6 PF (1-2), 2023 ESC 5th, 2x NYS Freestyle PF (5-1), 2022 NYS Greco 4th, 2022 Ohio TOC 8th. HIs accomplishment speak for themselves. With the addition of these 5 hammers, St. Francis immediately becomes nearly 30 points better in each dual meet, which is a massive swing. The Raiders should be favorites to capture dual meet titles and tournament titles this season, including the CHSAA Dual Meet Championships.
During my long conversation with Steve, I kept being drawn into his love and passion for wrestling. It goes beyond the wrestling aspect itself. Steve coaches year around and is willing to help out any wrestler in any capacity, regardless of your situation or what club you train at or what school you attend. This gentleman is the epitome of a wrestling coach. He not only coaches, he changes lives for the better. He has a great working relationship with University of Buffalo Head Coach John Stutzman and is a regular at Kellen Devlin's club "KD6". Hart was just announced as a coach for the USA Women's National Team and will be heading to Colorado Springs at the end of November for their Senior Nationals Team Camp.
Coach Hart expressed extreme thanks and gratitude for his wife, Nicole, who has been supportive since day 1. In his own words, "without my wife Nicole's support on the home front, none of this would be possible." He would go on to say he is only as good as the people around him, his staff which includes Kellen Devlin, Kyle McGregor and Joe Buscaglia. He also stated the LaPlante Family is the nucleus of it all.
Buffalo State/St.Francis landed a proven winner, plain and simple. Starpoint dropped the ball and will soon regret their decision as their downward spiral begins.
Lastly, my final thought, once our conversation was over, was this. If you're a new coach, an experienced coach, or even a seasoned veteran coach, and want your program and student athletes to succeed, then emulate what Coach Hart does on and off the mat. In a sport that is ever changing, Steve is always....I REPEAT ALWAYS.....one step ahead and his success is prevalent and infectious.