by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – Hazen Union’s Tyler Rivard competed in the Twin State Baseball Classic over the weekend and officially put a bow on a legendary high school career that will be talked about for generations to come.
Rivard is the son of Wildcat alum Joe Rivard and North Country and Clarkson University basketball standout Sue Rivard. He credits his parents for getting him interested in all sports at an early age and the support they provided throughout his record-breaking journey. Rivard graduated earlier this month as the best three-sport athlete in school history and as head basketball coach Aaron Hill said this past winter, “..it isn’t even close.”
“Growing up, my parents were always my biggest supporters and influencers. They got me into any sports program they possibly could and when I started to compete at the middle school level, I began to realize how awesome this Hardwick community was. Going to all the home basketball games, there wasn’t an empty seat in sight and I always dreamed of being a part of the starting five on the varsity team,” said Rivard.
After an impressive sophomore season on the soccer pitch, hardwood, and baseball diamond, Rivard hit the weight room hard, grew four inches, and the rest, as they say, is history. He earned a Capital League Honorable Mention as a junior in his first season in between the pipes as a goalkeeper for the Wildcats and quickly ascended as one of the best netminders in the state last fall with First Team honors in the Capital and a selection to the Vermont All-state Soccer Team.
His junior season on the hardcourt was even more impressive, leading Hazen Union to their eighth Division III state championship with a legendary 21-point 22 rebound performance at the Barre Auditorium in taking down top-seeded Winooski. He shattered the single season rebounding record at Hazen that winter and earned First Team Capital League honors and a Vermont Dream Dozen selection for his efforts.
Rivard was far from done rewriting the record books at the “Cat Den” as a senior, setting the single game scoring record with a 50-point 21-rebound performance against Enosburg, awing a packed house with several thunderous dunks throughout the regular season, and becoming the first Hazen Union basketball player to finish their career with over a 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
He led the Wildcats back to the state title game this past March and his 23-point 17 rebound season averages earned him Capital League Player of the Year honors. Rivard hung up his shoes with every rebounding record in school history and ranks fourth all-time in Vermont high school basketball behind the likes of George Hinchliffe, Lance Mouton, and Henry Dalrymple.
“Basketball has always been the staple of this town and to hear my name announced every home game the last four years has been nothing but an honor. I want to thank all the coaches and the fans in this community for making my high school career something I will never forget and as this year showed, you can’t win them all,” said Rivard.
Coach Hill has seen the best of the best come through his storied program over the last two-plus decades, but Rivard’s relentless motor and ability to rebound the basketball was something he had never seen.
“Tyler had an incredible senior season and career and he gave and did so much for this program. He was the single most dominating force in Vermont high school basketball this past winter. He had the physical gifts needed to be a dominant rebounder, but he also had incredible instincts and ability to read the ball and the desire and determination to fight for every single rebound,” said Hill.
As historically great as Rivard was on the basketball court, he was equally as imposing on the baseball diamond. His senior class of Lyle Rooney, James Montgomery, and Jadon Baker helped transform a spiraling Hazen Union baseball program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2007, into a divisional power. Rivard was a First Team Capital League selection his junior season after leading the Wildcats to 15 wins, their first No. 1 overall seed in school history, and the program’s first trip back to the state title game in 15 years. Rivard was far from done, hitting over .600 this past spring, slugging a Barry Bonds-like 1.042, belting two homers, five triples, while swiping 19 bases.
The Wildcats secured their second straight top seed behind a 14-win season and Rivard captured his second Capital League Player of the Year honor in three months. He laced up his cleats one last time over the weekend at Norwich University as one of the best seniors in the state, helping his Vermont team pound New Hampshire 18-0 in the Twin State Baseball Classic.
“It was a privilege to take the field with such a stellar group of baseball players here at Hazen and turning Hardwick into a baseball town as well, is one of my proudest achievements. We had such a great coaching staff and it was so much fun the last four years,” said Rivard.
Head coach Spencer Howard was a player on that 2007 Wildcat team under the late great Dan Hill that made it to Centennial Field. He got a firsthand look at the transformation of his program under Rivard and his fellow seniors. While still marveling at his talent as an athlete, he looks more to his work ethic as the reason for his incredible achievements in all three sports at Hazen.
“Tyler is one of the best athletes to ever come out of Hazen. His ability to excel in multiple sports and take what he learned in one sport and apply it to the next, was the best I’ve ever seen. I think a lot of people think every sport came easy to him, but it’s the work that he put in during practice that allowed him to succeed. He was the kid that always wanted one more throw or one more pitch in the cage. That work ethic he has instilled in himself will allow him to be successful in life and that to me is one of the best things to see in a kid who is graduating. To go the extra mile is a testament to the person and isn’t something that can be taught,” said Howard.
Rivard’s dedication to excellence in multiple sports is an anomaly in 2023, but don’t discount the droves of young wide-eyed kids he effected in the Hardwick and surrounding communities the last four years. They have seen the blueprint for building and sustaining strong multiple athletic programs at a small school and they all have a new sports hero. Rivard’s advice to those future Wildcat stars is simple.
“It is one sports season at a time and one practice at a time. In order to become good at a sport, you have to practice your talents in that sport every day all season long. Once that season is over, you put all your focus into the next one,” said Rivard.