BILLERICA -- When it comes to gauging a high school wrestler's potential, it's important to look beyond athletic ability.

Toughness often supersedes talent on the mat, a place where the mentally and physically strongest competitors typically pin down the most success.

Shawsheen Tech senior Nick Hoar has relied on tenacity, grit and determination to grind his way to a 28-3 record at 170 pounds this winter.

Hoar, who has compiled 118 wins over his four-year career, and the Rams head into the regular season's stretch drive with a 20-3 record. Shawsheen has already clinched its sixth straight Commonwealth Athletic Conference title.

It’s tough to beat Shawsheen Tech senior wrestler Nick Hoar. It’s even tougher to outwork the 170-pound standout with a 28-3 season record.
It's tough to beat Shawsheen Tech senior wrestler Nick Hoar. It's even tougher to outwork the 170-pound standout with a 28-3 season record. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

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"I'm not the best wrestler you'll see," said Hoar. "I don't have a lot of funky, slick moves. I rely on the double leg takedown and half nelson. I don't take a lot of chances. I'm just your basic hard-nosed wrestler.

"Heart and desire can carry you a long way. There are lots of kids who are more skilled than me. When you are on the mat it usually comes down to who wants it more and who's in better shape. Those things win matches. I won't let anyone outwork me."

Hoar has worked his way to top this season -- he's the second-ranked 170-pounder in the state in MassWrestling.com's rankings -- and helped lift a Shawsheen squad that supposed to be rebuilding up with him. The Rams are fifth in MassWrestling.com's team rankings.

"He's a throwback," said long-time Shawsheen Tech coach Mark Donovan, who won the 400th victory of his career last weekend. "He's an old-school wrestler. You don't come across many kids like him these days. I've been fortunate to have a few of them over the years. He fits in there with the toughest kids who've wrestled for me.

"He's the whole package. He's very skillful. His work ethic is second to none. He's been around some good leaders like (former Rams' star) Devonn Pratt, who showed him to never take the easy way out. He's a brawler. He just comes at you. There's no quit in him. He'll never take a step backward. He'll fight through adversity and get something positive out of every situation. It takes a special breed to succeed in this sport, and he's it."

Hoar was a standout football player for the Rams, earning a berth on the Commonwealth Athletic Conference all-star team the past two falls. This past season, Hoar, a linebacker on defense and blocking back on offense, was in on 94 tackles. He earned four sacks, forced three fumbles and had an interception.

During his high school career, Hoar, an honor roll student, has been the consummate winner, playing on six league championship squads. He has managed to turn the most individual of sports, wrestling, into the ultimate team game, helping the Rams claim the CAC title all four years he wrestled varsity.

Hoar, a three-year varsity performer in football, was on two Shawsheen football teams that captured CAC crowns.

"When he gets on the mat or the football field he's all business," said Donovan. "His leadership is unbelievable. I'd say he's one of the top five captains I've had here.

"He's a character kid. He'll put his arm around a kid when he's down and out. He knows how to push a kid. He leads by example. He's always the first guy in the locker room every day, and the last one to leave. He embraces the daily grind. He teaches our kids what it takes to succeed.

Shawsheen Tech coach Mark Donovan, right, calls Nick Hoar one of the best  captains he’s had. SUN/DAVID H. BROWSun staff photos can be ordered by
Shawsheen Tech coach Mark Donovan, right, calls Nick Hoar one of the best captains he's had. SUN/DAVID H. BROW

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.
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When Hoar, a Billerica resident, isn't starring for the Rams, he's busy coaching youth sports, including helping on the staff of Billerica's Pop Warner A team.

With the big year-end matches approaching, Hoar, a co-captain along with Tim Ward, Zack Zahiri, Tyler Peters and Joe Steen, is hoping to turn in a peak performance when it matters most. Hoar placed fourth at the Division 1 North Sectional and seventh at the Division 1 State Tournament as a junior.

"Last year I kind of took some things for granted (at the year-end tournaments) and it cost me," said Hoar. "I've worked hard this season and I don't think I'll make the same mistakes."

Hoar also wants to help lead the Rams to a high finish in the team standings. 

"It's been an awesome season," said Hoar, who plans on playing football in college. "Going into this season not many people expected us to do what we've been doing. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but coach Donovan stressed it wasn't. It's never a rebuilding year at Shawsheen."

Hoar and Rams have the championships to prove it.

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter and Tout @cwfrongi