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Three-time state champion wrestler Steve Hoff died Nov. 12.
Three-time state champion wrestler Steve Hoff died Nov. 12. (Courtesy photo)

On Nov. 12, the Maryland sports scene, Carroll County and the greater Westminster community suffered a great loss with the death of my childhood friend and neighbor, Steve Hoff, 62, of Westminster and Patapsco. He passed away at the University of Maryland Medical Center after an extended illness.

Hoff was born Nov. 7, 1957. His mom, also my childhood neighbor, Annie Hoff, 87, died Oct. 14, 2016. Hoff grew up on his parent’s successful dairy and farming operation on an historic farm on the old Westminster-Reisterstown Turnpike. I grew-up beside the farm and as a child I spent a great deal of time on the farm, “helping” Hoff’s Dad, Wilfred S. Hoff, Sr., and Annie.

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Hoff graduated from Westminster High School in 1976, where he “excelled in wrestling as an All-American and was the only person to have won 3 straight titles, when all schools competed in one division,” according to his obituary on the Fletcher’s Funeral Home web site.

“He was a 3 time State Champion in ’74, ’75, ’76 and had a career record of 72 -3-1. He was inducted into both the Carroll County and Maryland Sports Hall of Fame…” Later, after high school, he continued to contribute to the sport by helping coach the FSK Jr. Eagles wrestling program for many years.

On Feb. 16, 1995, Bill Free wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun, “3-time winner Hoff had simple strategy….” In his article, Free explained, “There was nothing sophisticated about Steve Hoff’s rise to wrestling fame in the mid-1970s at Westminster High…”

“No one else in Carroll County has ever won three state titles, and Hoff did it in the days when every school competed in the state tournament at Catonsville Community College. There were no separate divisions for public, private, and Catholic schools…

“Throwing bales of hay around on the farm and doing all the other heavy-duty work of a farmer were more than enough to keep him in shape to win state titles at (different weight classes) 138 in 1974, 145 in 1975 and 155 in 1976.”

There was standing room only in the chapel at Fletcher’s Funeral Home on Nov. 16, as friends, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to Hoff, his life, legacy and accomplishments. Folks such as Carroll County Board of Education member and coach Kenny Kiler, past president of the Maryland Junior Wrestling League and the coach with youth wrestling in Manchester Wrestling, had fond remembrances.

Hoff’s Patapsco neighbor, and wrestling coach, Judge Mike Galloway was there. (Galloway was also my wrestling coach.) Also from Patapsco, Buzzy Shamer, the owner of the salvage yard in Patapsco paid tribute to his dear friend Steve. Also present was the legendary Carroll County wrestling coach Dick Bauerlein who retired in 1994 after 31 years of coaching. (Bauerlein was also my coach.) In 1994, The Baltimore Sun reported, “Bauerlein is a rare breed of coach who has been able to span three decades and maintain discipline long after many coaches basically have given up on running a tight ship…”

Discipline was never a problem with Hoff. According to Free, in the 1995 Sun article about Hoff. “‘Steve had what it takes to be a champion,’ said his coach, Wes Keffer, who is retired. ‘He was extremely strong and had a good work ethic. He did chores in the morning, came to school, practiced with the team, went home and did more chores in the evening, and then came back to school to practice on his own later at night in the wrestling room.’”

A number of colleges recruited Hoff to wrestle for them after high school, “but Steve told me to tell all the colleges he wasn’t interested," said Keffer. “He wanted to stay on the farm,” according to Free’s 1995 article. (In full disclosure I also farmed in Patapsco for 25 years.)

It is no surprise to anyone to report that Hoff was loyal to his friends and family. Hoff left behind his wife Jenny Hall and three children: Steve Hoff and life-partner Dena Austin of Westminster, Jennifer Magin and husband Jason of Hampstead, Bryan Hoff and wife Denise of Hampstead; step-son Levi Hall of Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania; former wife and friend Beth Hoff. He also left behind a brother and two sisters, Deborah Muse and husband Roger “Gil” of Finksburg, Diane Buchman and husband Charles of Taneytown, Michael Hoff of Finksburg, and Donna Hoff and husband John Brenner of Taneytown.

It has been said that too often we spend time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Be sure to spend some time with your friends, family and loved ones before it is too late.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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