LIBERTY CENTER For a wrestler the caliber of Marc Hoff, it would be easy to look past the Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships this weekend.
But Hoff, one of the top Division III wrestlers in the state, knows that there s a price to be paid when you look too far ahead.
The past two seasons Hoff has seen his chances to win a state title slip out of his hands because he lost in the semifinals. And both times the problem was the same: looking past his opponent.
I think I got myself into that trap of looking ahead at the kid I really wanted to wrestle in the finals, Hoff said. You just have to take your matches one at a time. That s what I ve done this year: taking it one match at a time, not looking ahead at who I ll have in the finals or who I ll have in the next match.
If you take them one at a time, everything will take care of itself.
So far things have taken care of themselves for Hoff, a senior who is 29-2 this season. He already has set a Liberty Centerrecord for career wins with a 156-16 mark, thanks in large part to a 50-4 effort last year which set a single-season record.
At the state meet Hoff has posted back-to-back third-place finishes at 145 pounds after coming within one match of placing in the top eight at 140 pounds as a freshman. But while that might be satisfying for most wrestlers, it s particularly unsatisfying for Hoff.
I m not going to lie and say it s a great feeling [to finish third twice and qualify three times], although I know a lot of people have that aspiration, he admitted. But ever since I was a freshman, coach [Mel Rentschler] has said I have what it takes to be a step above what I ve done.
Rentschler said the problem is that Hoff s finishes at the state meet don t mesh with his potential.
When we saw him wrestle as a freshman, we would have bet the ranch he would be a three-time state champ, Rentschler said. Things just didn t work out for him at the state tournament. This year he s on a mission.
In his freshman year, Hoff s road to placing at state was ended with a loss to Delta s Lucas Burkholder, who Hoff had beaten in the NWOAL championships.
As a sophomore and junior, Hoff was bitten by the same bug. In the state semifinals, he was looking ahead to facing Delta s Jamison Moss, whom Hoff had beaten in the sectionals both years. But Hoff lost both times, last year in overtime. Moss, meanwhile, advanced and won two state crowns.
It was rough the first year because I thought I could have done better, Hoff said. The second year I was happy because I reached the podium. The third year, when I lost the semifinal, I was kind of bummed about that.
The past two years I ve been really close, and the guy who won my weight class is a guy I beat in the sectionals. I know I messed up along the way, and it s kind of frustrating from that point of view.
Rentschler said a better measure of Hoff s ability was the way in which he responded after losing his semifinal matches.
A lot of kids would have folded [when they lost], Rentschler said. He bucked back up and placed third. That s a credit to him. He s not a loser, and he wasn t going to go out like that. There are a lot of kids who would love to be a [state] qualifier, third, third. I d put Marc up against anybody in the state of Ohio.
At the league meet, which will be hosted by Liberty Center, Hoff will attempt to become just the ninth wrestler in NWOAL history to win four league titles.
I think Marc is the best wrestler we ve ever had at Liberty Center, talent-wise, Rentschler said. The kid loves to wrestle he s a mat rat. Not too many kids like to wrestle fromSeptember to September, but he wrestles all the year through. He s probably the most dedicated kid I ve ever had.
Rentschler said Hoff also has played a big role in the Tigers quest to win a third straight team title.
Last year we had an enormous senior class filled with state champions and placers, Rentschler said. This year we thought we were going to drop off the table [in the standings], but Marc stepped it up. He s the one everybody looks to and the one who pushes everyone in the room. He has set the example for us this year.
For all those reasons, Hoff won t look past the league meet this weekend.
Being a four-time champ would be very cool because not a lot of guys have done it in this league, Hoff said. Sectionals, districts and state are what is important, but it s nice to have league titles, too. And the team has a shot to win it, too.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.