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Milton's Hoffman preps for one last ride before joining Coast Guard

Mar. 6—Stepping off the second-place podium for the second time in two weeks, Alex Hoffman gave a brutally honest assessment.

"I gotta just more be confident — I gotta trust myself more with these matches," the Milton senior said. "I'm there — I can totally win this. I just gotta believe in myself."

Hoffman was coming off his second consecutive loss to Montgomery's Caden Finck in a title match at 172 pounds on Saturday at Williamsport High School. Before the two met for the regional title, Hoffman and Finck squared off for the district gold a week prior, a match Finck also won.

His ability to drive for self-improvement and provide self-criticism is a huge reason why Hoffman will be making his second consecutive trip to the PIAA state tournament in Hershey later this week. Those traits will also be an asset for his post high-school career as he's committed to wrestle at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

It's not like Hoffman wasn't in those two matches with Finck. Their first meeting at the District 4 championships went into overtime with the match tied at 1-1. Finck grabbed the district gold after he earned an escape during the second tiebreak period.

A week later, the pair were involved in another tight match when Hoffman and Finch were knotted at 2-2 after the second period of the regional title match. However, Finck registered an escape five seconds into the third period and sealed the match with a takedown with 25 seconds left.

Finck is ranked third in the state at 172 and took fifth place at states last season.

"I'm gonna need the experience for the longer, closer match," Hoffman said. "It's just more of my style."

Despite losing to Finck twice, it's been a banner season season for Hoffman as he boasts a 33-5 record this season. His three other defeats came at the Trojan Wars tournament in Chambersburg in December. After taking a loss in the first day of the tournament, Hoffman had to take an injury default the next day. As a result, Hoffman was forced to forfeit his next match for his third loss of the season.

Hoffman also eclipsed the 100-win mark when he picked up a 5-0 decision against Midd-West's Grant Yount in the district semifinals. Hoffman wasn't always sure he'd achieve the milestone as he only went 10-8 during his freshman season.

"I felt so proud doing that," Hoffman said. "I worked my whole high-school career for that, even during a crappy freshman year. But to still rack it up and get a milestone feels great."

Earlier in the season, Hoffman signed onto the Coast Guard Academy, which is based in New London, Conn. and competes in NCAA Division III. Hoffman knew he always wanted to join the military, but he also wanted to wrestle at college at the same time.

"Their camaraderie, their integrity and the campus there is beautiful too," said Hoffman on what stood out about the Coast Guard Academy.

Before he gets to compete at the collegiate level, Hoffman still has more state tournament left as a high-schooler starting on Thursday.

In his first appearance at the Giant Center last season, Hoffman went 1-1 on the first day before he was knocked out of the tournament the next day with a 4-3 loss to Northwestern Lehigh's Luke Fugazzotto.

This year, Hoffman opens with Port Allegany's Aiden Bliss (28-9) in the first round. Hoffman is ranked 15th in the state while Bliss clocks in at 28th. If Hoffman can get past Bliss, then he could potentially have a matchup with top-ranked Adam Waters (39-4) of Faith Christian in the quarterfinals. Waters is also the reigning state champion.

Hoffman believes that participating in the state tournament last season will help him going into this week.

"I was wide-eyed nervous the first time I went there," Hoffman said. "But I got my experience up. I'm getting tougher matches, I'm older and just tougher in general."