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Solon graduate wins national championship
Solon graduate wins national championship
By TONY LANGE
Solon's most decorated wrestler, Kevin Hardy, helped himself to a collegiate title at the recent National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
A 2007 graduate of Solon High School, Hardy is the only Comet to have won three state championships, and, on March 3, he became Oklahoma City University's first national champion.
"It was the greatest feeling in the world," Hardy said about his arm getting raised after beating Grand View University's Brad Lower in a 4-0 decision.
Minutes before that 165-pound championship bout while warming up, Hardy's mom got a phone call from Columbus and broke the news to him about his little brother, Brandon Thompson.
Following in Hardy's footsteps, Thompson, a junior at Solon, had just won his second straight state title at 113 pounds for the Comets.
"I found out Brandon won right when I was warming up for my match," said Hardy, who was 600 miles away at the time. "I was like, 'Oh, now I've got to win too.' I was absolutely excited though. My mom was in tears. She was like, 'Brandon won his second straight title.'"
After hearing that his little brother won, Hardy said he was a lot calmer during his pregame ritual -- pacing.
"It changed my attitude. I was actually more stressed about his match up until I heard the results," Hardy said. "I wasn't even thinking about my match that much. I was thinking about his. We were calling to get updates. It was crazy, because that kid means the world to me."
During his championship match in Des Moines, Hardy seized the crown by breaking scoreless first and second periods with an escape 15 seconds into the third period.
"I rode him out the whole second period," Hardy said. "In the third period, I escaped, and then he took a bad shot, and I actually heard him cuss. He got so frustrated, and that's when I knew I broke him. After that, I got the takedown, and I just held him in a cradle for the last like 30 seconds. I was just holding my breath, I was so excited."
Lower had pinned Hardy two weeks earlier during the NAIA Central Qualifying Group Tournament title match, so Hardy was able to avenge that loss and finished his senior year at OCU with a 39-2 record and All-American honors.
While he became the Stars' first national champion, it was his first season at Oklahoma City.
Before transferring to OCU, Hardy wrestled just down the road from Solon at Notre Dame College, where he recorded a 33-8 record and placed third at the NAIA championships a year ago.
"At first, I was the new kid stomping on their territory, but now we've all grown really close, and they're some of the best friends in my life now. They've helped me accomplish my dream," Hardy said about his teammates at OCU. "I miss being around family and stuff, but it's good. It's helping me get my foot out the door and prepare for the real world."
When Hardy was a freshman at Solon, he placed third for the Comets at 103 pounds, losing only to St. Edward state champion Shawn Harris in 2004.
As a sophomore, Hardy defeated Harris, 3-2, in the 112-pound championship match.
As a junior, Hardy beat St. Edward's Dan Gonsor, 7-0, in the 130-pound championship.
And as a senior, Hardy defeated Westerville North's Jesse Dong, 9-4, at 145 pounds for the title.
Hardy said his first state championship was memorable, because it was his first. His third state championship was memorable, because it was his senior year and he became Solon's three-time state champion. But his junior year championship was the most memorable, he said.
"I was losing in the semifinals," Hardy said. "I was down by one point with like 10 seconds left in the match, and I ended up rolling the kid with like three seconds left, and so that was pretty memorable, because I thought for sure that I was going to lose, and I ended up winning a state title that year."
While Hardy said he showed Thompson some moves while growing up, their similar wrestling styles have nothing to do with being brothers.
Learning from Solon head coach Tony DiGiovanni and assistants Mike Collica and Mike Thompson has everything to do with their styles, he said.
Coach Thompson is Hardy's stepfather. Coach Collica's son, Anthony, also won his second straight state championships for the Comets on March 3.
"I've definitely showed Brandon a lot of stuff, but most of the stuff I learned was from coach D and my stepdad and coach Mike Collica. Since we've had the same teachers, it's not too weird that we basically have the exact same wrestling style," Hardy said. "Not all high school programs are set up to get you ready for the intensity of college programs, but coach DiGiovanni's program pretty much emulates a college setting. He is one of the most amazing coaches that I've ever met in my life."
At Solon, Hardy finished with a 169-12 career record for the Comets.
"I would love for Brandon to be the second three-timer in Solon history," he said. "It would be cool, with us both being from the same family."
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