OA Wrestler Captures Gold in Bay State Games
Matt Harding (Class of 2011) finishes first in 189-pound weight class at Bay State Games.
Every year, the annual Bay State Games sees a growth in numbers.
In the 30th edition of the summertime event (held in June and July) over 8,000 athletes in 29 different sports took the spotlight from ages 6-86. Very few come out victorious, let alone come away with a medal.
Matt Harding, a member of the class of 2011 at Oliver Ames High School, recently put himself in that elite category capturing a gold medal in wrestling in the 189-pound weight class.
Harding, a member of the wrestling and baseball teams at OA, basked in the moment after becoming the first athlete in school history to win a Bay State summer event.
“It was mentally tiring, but it felt so good to come out with the win,” Harding reflected. “No one from the school had ever [won] so it was definitely exciting.”
For a program that is still relatively young, Harding’s victory has given the OA wrestling team a little more recognition.
As a junuior, Harding helped put OA on the map during the 2009-10 season when he became the first member in the program’s history to qualify for the All-State meet. This past March, Harding qualified for the second straight year in the All-States, finishing eighth in his weight class (189).
All of this prepared Harding against the state’s best wrestlers this summer.
“It felt good to get in the competition zone and not just doing drills with a partner or going to all these different mats [to practice],” Harding said. “It felt good to get back on the mat and go up against some competition and actually have it count towards something.”
Even with all the previous success Harding’s fellow peers, including OA wrestling coach Adam Pomella, were offering him encouragement en route to his accomplishment.
“They were texting me throughout the event giving me some tips and pointers,” Harding said. “They were super excited when I won. It was just an awesome feeling.”
The multi-sport athlete will be attending UMass-Boston in the fall and is looking forward to the next phase in life.
Whether Harding plays baseball collegiately or continues his career in amateur wrestling (wrestling is not offered as a varsity sport at UMass-Boston) remains to be seen. But if an opportunity arises, much like it did at the Bay State Games, Harding will look to take advantage of it.
“Nothing is really set in stone right now,” Harding said about his future. “If a college wants me to wrestle or play baseball there I’d be more then happy to do it. It all comes down to whether or not they [the coaches] want me to play because I would love to play at the college level.”
Harding, a member of the Easton Legion baseball team this summer, offered some advice for his fellow wrestling teammates going forward.
“Just make sure you practice a lot. Make sure you go to a lot of camps and prepare,” he said. “Also make sure that you have confidence in yourself whether its on the [weight] scale or on the mat. Just work hard and have confidence.”