2024 WCIA 3 Male Athlete of the Year: Jack Barnhart

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — For the past four years, Jack Barnhart and his dad, Justin, have walked a fine line on the field together.

“Sometimes we butt heads and what not but I think I’ll definitely miss not having my dad out here being my coach,” said Jack Barnhart.

The parent-coach combo is a balancing act for both, but it all started with the right mindset for Justin.

“We kept home home and school school and I think that’s what enabled us to work,” said Justin Barnhart.

Justin has coached Chargers football for more than two decades, and as a result, Jack was in the game from the beginning, from ball boy to two-time All-State defensive lineman.

Barnhart finished his career with 327 total tackles, second on the school’s all-time list.

“The bigger picture is that his motor never stops, on the field, off the field, he’s got more energy than any kid I’ve other seen and he applies it,” said Chargers head coach Kyle Jackson. “In the classroom, on the field, in the weight room.”

For all that he accomplished on the field, he surpassed it on the mat. After finishing fourth at state as a sophomore, Barnhart came in sixth as a junior. He decided to step up his game, working out three times a day to achieve his goals, and it paid off with a perfect 44-0 senior season, finally crowned state champ.

“It meant the world to me,” said Centennial wrestling coach Andrew Nyland. “The whole season and really since last year, it was we’re going to win this year. Not if we win, Jack is going to be a champion, not if he’s a champion. So it was a great way to top off a great year.”

Barnhart will get the rare chance to play both football and wrestle at the next level at McKendree University, doing so as the 2024 WCIA 3 Male Athlete of the Year.

“A lot of people don’t get that opportunity to do two sports and for me it was going to be really had to choose which one and they’re like, ‘You can do both’ and so I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,'” said Barnhart.


2023: Garrett Taylor, Salt Fork
2022: Beau Edwards, Arcola
2021: Chris Brown, Monticello
2020: Santi Rodriguez, Central
2019: Luke Luffman, Urbana and Jared Trantina, GCMS
2018: Justin Cardani, Centennial and Turner Pullen, Shelbyville

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