Hoffman’s quick wins showcase his dominance

Gavin Hoffman claimed he’s not rushing through anything. Two first-period technical falls in the last two weeks would beg to differ.

He’s at least trying to soak in his surroundings, relishing the last matches he’ll ever wrestle as a member of the Montoursville wrestling team. But it hasn’t stopped the senior 195-pounder from being the most dominant wrestler in District 4.

When he scored a fall over Southern Columbia’s Lear Quinton in the finals of the Class AA Northeast Regional tournament on Saturday in just 16 seconds, Southern coach Jerry Marks looked to his right at assistant coach Kent Lane, smiled and shook his head.

It’s not supposed to be that easy in the finals of the state qualifying tournament, and for most mere mortals it’s not. Hoffman just makes it look that easy.

He’ll wrestle his final four matches in a Montoursville singlet at this weekend’s PIAA Class AA tournament in Hershey. Hoffman is doing nothing but looking to cement his legacy as potentially the greatest high school wrestler Lycoming County has ever produced. Should he win his third state championship this weekend, he would be the first Lycoming County wrestler to ever do so.

So as he’s trying to soak in the moment each time he steps on the mat, he’s also trying to prove a point to those who watch him. He wants people to remember in years to come he was constant action, always looking to score points and always looking to entertain.

He set the goal prior to the postseason of wanting to either pin or tech fall each of his postseason opponents this year to best emphasize how dominant he’s capable of being. Really, it’s the lone goal left for Hoffman to chase. He had been preparing all season for a rematch with Bishop McCort’s Anthony Walters in the state final, but Walters bumped up to 220 pounds for the postseason.

Hoffman has lived up to that promise. The most time he’s spent on the mat this postseason was the 2 minutes, 44 seconds it took him to earn a technical fall over Jersey Shore’s David Tomb in the Central Sectional final. Since then, he’s posted falls in 44, 38 and 16 seconds. He’s posted technical falls in 1:34, 2:05 and 1:38.

He produces points faster than Hershey’s produces chocolate bars. And he treats every match like it’s the state final. Prior to the regional final, he stalked the gym floor of the Magic Dome like a Tiger waiting to pounce on his prey, stopping only to take the occasional drink of water and to tell his coaches he was just going to pin his opponent as quickly as he could.

After needing about three seconds to score a takedown, Hoffman went to his patented roll-through half nelson to square Quinton’s shoulders to the mat. The fall would have been quicker than 16 seconds if the official hadn’t been caught so off guard that it took him a few seconds to get down on the mat.

All that was left after he slapped the mat was for Marks, a former two-time state champ himself, to look at Lane, also a former state champ, and shake his head and smile incredulously.

“I want people to remember I never stopped,” Hoffman said. “Every second I was out on that mat, I was looking to score. I was never settling on a lead and I was building up my score and taking risks. That’s what it’s all about.”

The final chapter of Hoffman’s high school career will begin to be written this weekend. There’s a good possibility a spot on the Pennsylvania team in the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic on March 25 is waiting for him. As the No. 1-ranked 195-pounder in the country, a spot he earned on the mat by beating Malvern Prep’s Michael Beard in October, it’d be hard to tell him no.

Hoffman has finally achieved the success he so hungered for when he showed up as a freshman with expectations heaped upon his broad shoulders. He always longed to be the best, and it didn’t matter if it was in a bout, the league, the district, the region, the state or the country. He just wanted to be the best.

The last year he’s proven to be the best in all those areas, even going as far as to win a bronze medal at the Cadet World Championships in September. He knows with his third state title this weekend he can become the first District 4 wrestler to win three state championships in a career since Line Mountain’s Mike Shingara in 1997. He’d also be just the 23rd four-time state placewinner in District 4 history, and only the seventh in Lycoming County history.

Hoffman’s legacy at Montoursville is forever written in Tom Elling’s annual Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook. He’ll start a new journey next fall when he joins the Ohio State University wrestling program. But he’s still got one last step to take this weekend. With four wins he’ll finish second all-time in District 4 in career wins behind only Southern Columbia’s Jaret Lane, who is also looking to be a four-time state placewinner this weekend.

“History, those are just numbers. They don’t really show the person you are and how you performed not only on the mat, but off the mat, too,” Hoffman said. “That’s what I’m really learning this year is that history comes and goes and people might forget about how you wrestled, but they’re not going to forget about how you impacted their life and how you made them feel. That’s one thing I’ve learned this year is that I need to stop worrying about leaving my mark on the mat, and worry about leaving my mark off the mat, too.”

Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.