Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Chris Hardin is in his first season as head coach at Parkview after leading Effingham County to a Class AAAA state championship last season.
Chris Hardin, 27, is in his first season as the head wrestling coach at Parkview High School. Prior to taking over the Panthers' program, Hardin spent three seasons at Effingham County, where he led the Rebels to the Class AAAA state title last year.
A 2001 graduate of Eagle's Landing High School, Hardin was a state runner-up. He got his bachelor's degree in history at the University of Georgia in 2006.
In this latest installment of "Getting to know ...," Hardin talks to staff writer Brandon Brigman about his favorite Christmas gift, proposing to his wife Brandy McElroy and being a Georgia Tech fan.
BB: How was your Christmas break and did you get any cool gifts?
CH: I got an iPhone, that was it. The two days we had off I got to relax with my wife and her family and I got an iPhone, so I was pretty stoked about that. I've been wanting one for a while. I was pretty excited to join the rest of the Apple nation.
BB: What feature do you like most about the phone?
CH: I like the way the text messages look. The history of it, how it's all broke down and all that. I'm still learning. I haven't put any of my music on it. It's just limitless. I like all of the options I have.
BB: How many cool points did you gain from your students and wrestlers by getting it?
CH: I actually left it up to my seventh period. I was with Verizon and I was either going to get a Droid with Verizon or an iPhone, and they voted iPhone, so I asked for an iPhone for Christmas and it came through. One of the first apps I bought was the iFart app with the fart noises. I think I really got a lot of cool points on the plane to Ohio, I was hitting fart noises behind people. Hopefully, I stepped up a notch in their book.
BB: What did you get your wife?
CH: She's graduating law school in May, so I got her a nice briefcase, a folder and a cross pin, a pink cross pin. Her name is engraved in the briefcase and folder.
BB: A lawyer? You out-punted your coverage there didn't you?
CH: I did. We've been together a while, since our junior year in high school. She's graduating Florida State law school and hopefully I don't have to teach for 30 years and I can be a lay coach for somebody and just coach wrestling and that's it. Yeah, she's awesome. She's working very hard and is going to graduate fairly high in her class, too, so I'm proud of her.
BB: You guys got married in the summertime. How's the married life treating you?
CH: The same. We've lived together since, I actually moved in with her family my senior year of high school, so we've lived together a lot longer than we have not. It's just the same. Now I guess the next step will be family and that will be different obviously. That will be an added responsibility. It's great. She's my best friend, so it's all easy.
BB: How did you pop the question?
CH: At the captain's dinner on a cruise. In front of all my family. That was pretty good. I put her on the spot. I don't think I gave her a way out.
BB: Well, if she said no she couldn't get off the boat, right?
BB: How much of a difference is there in Class AAAA and Class AAAAA wrestling?
CH: Oh, tremendous. At AAAAA it makes it hard to be successful as a team because there are so many different individuals. Not so much great teams up and down, but there's great individuals that come in and make it tough. If you place top six at AAAAA it's quite an accomplishment. There's just so much individual depth.
BB: Was it a culture shock moving from South Georgia to Gwinnett County?
CH: No, I was always more of an Atlanta guy living in South Georgia. It was more a culture shock when I moved down there. Moving back here I was coming back home, being close to my friends, seeing my brother and people I want to see in Atlanta more frequently during wrestling season.
BB: Any pressure continuing the success at Parkview?
CH: No. I don't feel that. The expectations I place on myself far surpass a program's tradition or anything like that. Most of the kids in the room don't have any idea of the 2006 state championship. The expectations I place on myself and on the guys won't be any less than any tradition put there.
BB: What made you want to get into teaching and coaching?
CH: That's a good question. Just the sport. After my senior of high school, I was gonna try and do my own thing. Go into history, possibly law school, but I just started getting into coaching and it just grew and grew and grew. I just fell in love with it. I thought I was I pretty good at it and it just took off. The rest is history now.
BB: I'm assuming you're a Georgia football fan. Is that right?
CH: No, I'm a Tech fan. My grandfather went to Tech. I had no wish to be an engineer or doing anything with numbers and I love Athens the city, so I went to Georgia. I had a lot of fun and I had a lot of fun in my Georgia Tech gear. That was fun tailgates, being the only one at the Georgia-Tennessee game in Georgia Tech yellow and white and blue. I love UGA as an institution, but athletically any team that's playing UGA I want to win. That's to the bone. I despise them.
BB: So how tough was it to see them beat Tech in football this year?
CH: Well we did win last year. It was all right. That was their season and we had higher goals with the Orange Bowl. It stung a little bit, but hopefully it won't hurt us in recruiting.
BB: You were a state runner-up in high school. How often does that still eat at you?
CH: I lost in overtime on stalling, so every day of my life, needless to say, it's rough. Actually one of my Christmas presents, my wife put all of my wrestling videos on DVD, and two days ago I watched that video of the state finals. It's tough, especially as a coach, because I was stalling. But it doesn't lessen that blow any more. Every day it eats at me.
BB: Have you ever stalled since then?
CH: Absolutely, (laughs) I'm a life-long staller.
BB: How have you seen Georgia wrestling change since you were in high school?
CH: The lighter weights from 103 to 130 have gotten way, way more tough, especially on a national level. Because you always had a couple of kids that would go out and do well. But now, from top to bottom, you have an influx. A lot of that is a testament to the youth coaches.
BB: Is Collins Hill really as good as everyone says they are this year?
CH: Yeah. They are legit. They are tough.
BB: The best team you've ever seen?
CH: It's hard to get in that argument. Probably the next best team I've seen is the 2001 Starr's Mill team. I knew AAAAA a little bit, but they say this Parkview '06 team would have been up there in the top five of all-time teams, but there's no question this Collins Hill team is the best. Of course it pains me to say that, but hey they travel, fund raise, they do what it takes. They are reaping the benefits.
BB: How long do you see yourself at Parkview?
CH: Forever. I'm working until 7 or 7:30 at night three or four days a week because I'm doing middle school, too, so I see myself being here a very long time. Regardless of what they say about the school changing and stuff like that. It's still a huge school, they still have a lot of guys and as long as I can have access to the middle school aged kids we'll be fine. At Parkview the facilities are second to none.