He contributed much to the storied history of The Hill School’s wrestling program in the final years of the last century … on the mats.
Now, Dave Hoffman is looking to enhance its history even more … this time from the bench area.
It was recently announced Hoffman, a graduate of the school’s Class of 2001, will be returning to the Pottstown prep school as its head wrestling coach. Hoffman will take over for Mark Pearson, who is stepping aside in order to spend more time in his capacity as the school’s Director of the Humphrey Family Writing Center.
“It is my great honor to be appointed the next head wrestling coach for The Hill School,” the Pottstown area native said. “When I think back to the day that I walked into my first wrestling practice nearly 30 years ago, I never dreamt that the sport would take me this far or captivate me for this long. I have been truly blessed to have been surrounded by so many great coaches, teachers, and mentors along this journey, and I can only hope to pay that forward at The Hill.”
Hoffman became the Blues’ all-time mat competitor during his five years of participation in wrestling. Compiling 195 victories in 212 bouts, the Pottstown native emerged as a Pa. Independent School Wrestling Tournament champion each of those seasons, and a National Preps gold-medal finisher in 1999 and 2001.
Hoffman was accorded National Prep All-American honors five times. He was also one of two Hill grapplers, during the 1943-2001 time frame, to place at National Preps five times.
“I was wide-open as a competitor,” he said. “I wanted to go out and lock horns. If you don’t throw 100 percent out there, you won’t know how good you can be.”
Hoffman’s involvement in the sport began with joining the Norchester Optimists program. He recalled how his competitive career took off when he joined Team Renegade — one of the state’s pre-eminent wrestling clubs, onto which he was invited to join at age 12 — and the Pa. Cadet wrestling program.
“That changed my whole outlook,” he said. “I told myself I was as good as any of these guys.”
After graduating from The Hill, Hoffman continued his wrestling career at Virginia Tech University, where he was a three-year team captain. He qualified for the NCAA Division I Tournament all four years, earning All-American status as a senior. Hoffman also won his weight class at the ACC tournament as a senior.
Overall, Hoffman posted a career record of 116 wins and 32 losses as a Hokie. Twelve years after his graduation, Hoffman remains among the top-10 in Virginia Tech history in several statistical categories, including career wins (sixth), career pins (third) and single-season pins (second).
“It was a great accomplishment, being All-American,” he said. “I thought I could have been an Olympian.”
Instead, Hoffman stepped into the world of coaching.
He cut his teeth at Bucknell University, joining the Bison staff in 2006 as an assistant coach. That season was Bucknell’s first after a four-year hiatus and was a growing year for both the team and for Hoffman personally.
Serving as a mentor on a roster consisting of 24 true freshmen, the Bucknell staff guided the team to a respectable first-year record of 12 wins and nine losses. Two years later, the team had its first All-American and finished third at the conference championship.
“We had a lot of ups and downs,” Hoffman said of his six-year tenure at Bucknell, “but we made it (program) our own. I learned from the experience, both good and bad.”
The opportunity to return to his collegiate alma mater was too good for Hoffman to pass up.
He returned to Virginia Tech in 2012, just as the Hokies were emerging as a national wrestling power. Hoffman was an assistant coach at VT four seasons, during which the team finished ranked in the top-10 in Division I, culminating with a fourth-place finish in 2016. Over that stretch, the team produced 14 ACC champions, 17 All-Americans and its first NCAA finalist.
“I didn’t have it on my radar,” he said of coaching. “My plan after graduation was to stick around and train for a year. But the next thing you know, you’re in it 12 years.
“It was a fun ride.”
Among Hoffman’s administrative duties at VT were recruiting and managing prospective student-athletes. The experience paid him well as he moved on to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga for two years, during which time he played a role in recruiting such local talent as brothers Ryan and Luke Resnick (Class of 2017).
“That was one reason I was hired, my connection to the region,” he recalled. “Pennsylvania and Ohio run away with All-Americans.”
Now returning to his prep-school alma mater, Hoffman is looking to employ his skill set to get the Blues mat program heading toward the level of prominence it achieved back when he was a student. Off the mats, he will be serving as the school’s Director of Student Enrichment, Experiential Education and Activities.
“I want to be known as a player’s coach,” he said, “to help the kids figure out life and deal with adversity. If the kids know you have their backs, you’ll get their best efforts.”
His primary objective at The Hill is to establish a club wrestling program in the vein of Team Renegade. Through that, he hopes to increase the number of participants on a team with an estimated 5-7 returnees in 2018.
“I’m going to do my best to increase the number of wrestlers who enroll in the school,” he said. “The Hill will sell itself.”
Hoffman will be assisted by former teammate Zach Doll, who previously served as an assistant coach at the Hill and Germantown Academy and works as a personal trainer.
“Zach is arguably the best guy to come through the Hill in the last 20-30 years, if not longer,” Hoffman said. “Having him in front of me pushed me to be better.”
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