HERSHEY — Jimmy Hoffman envisioned his high school wrestling career ending a different way.
He didn’t see his four seasons with Hazleton Area concluding with a silver medal hanging around his neck for the second straight season.
He wanted the gold.
That dream came crashing down on Saturday night at Giant Center in the Class 3A PIAA Championships. Hoffman couldn’t get out of the grasp of Council Rock South’s Zack Trampe in the third period and lost 4-2 in the 132-pound final.
“I’m at a loss for words. It’s very heartbreaking for the kid,” Cougars coach Keith Maurer said. “He’s very, very, very, very, very, upset. He was upset last year. But you can always get the, ‘Hey, we can get ‘em next year.’ But now he’s a senior and for him next year is college.”
Becoming just the 19th wrestler in District 2’s storied wrestling history to reach multiple state finals, Hoffman faced Trampe for the third time in the last 12 months. The previous two meetings ended with the Cougars standout winning, once in the state semifinals last year and the other at a tournament in Bethlehem this past December. It was Trampe’s only loss this season.
But the old adage held true — it’s hard to beat someone three times, regardless of the sport.
“He controlled the pace a little bit more than I was hoping,” Maurer said of Trampe. “We were in the match right to the end. You’re in the state final and you beat the kid twice already … I was feeling comfortable going in.”
Trampe got the match’s first takedown 45 seconds into the bout. Less than 30 seconds later, Hoffman got a reversal to tie up the score at 2-2. For a split-second, Hoffman had a headlock applied and had Trampe on his back, but it wasn’t long enough for a two-count to pick up any back points.
Trampe got an escape a few seconds later to take a 3-2 lead into the second period.
“Of course in my point of view, I’m looking for two and two,” Maurer said. “I don’t know that that was the case, but that was the best-case scenario we hoped for. But Trampe was able to get out.”
Starting on bottom in the second period, the Council Rock South senior escaped again 36 seconds into the stanza to go up 4-2. Then he blocked multiple shot attempts by Hoffman as the two battled in neutral for most of the period.
Hoffman chose bottom in the third period and couldn’t break the grasp of his opponent as Trampe rode him out for the entire two minutes.
“We wrestle that match again tomorrow, you probably get a different outcome,” Maurer said.
Hoffman won his state semifinal in the ultimate tiebreaker, holding down Altoona’s Cole Manley, not only in the ride-out period, but in the second overtime as well. He didn’t allow the previously unbeaten senior to escape in the final minute of the match despite slippery and sweaty conditions for both wrestlers. While rolling around, Hoffman nearly lost his grip in the final 30 seconds.
“It was tough. He was getting slippery at the end, so it was really hard,” Hoffman said after winning his semifinal. “It’s fun rolling around. Obviously in that situation, that’s a huge match, so it’s a little uncomfortable, but we do that.
“I’m used to those type of situations, kind of, so it actually wasn’t that bad.”
When he won the semifinal bout, Hoffman became the first multiple-time state finalist from the WVC since Meyers’ Joe Rovelli did so in 2004.
That’s just one of dozens of accolades for Hoffman, who will attend and wrestle for Division I Lehigh in the fall. He ends with 161 career wins, two state silver medals, four appearances at the state tournament, three District 2 titles, and many more.
“A career that I don’t know will be matched in Hazleton for a long period of time,” Maurer said. “Hopefully some kids look up to that, and it’s a goal for some kids to shoot for and look up to him.”
Scranton’s Willie Evanitsky was the only state medalist from District 2 in Class 3A on Saturday, taking home a fifth-place medal at 145 by beating Big Spring’s Tucker Brough 5-3 in the last match of his junior season.