SPRINGFIELD — Cameron Hofmeister would wrestle against a 21-year-old and he wouldn’t offer one complaint if asked to do so.
That’s saying a lot for anyone. It’s says a great deal more given the fact he’s only 13.
The 106-pound Bozeman wrestler improved to 11-1 after the Ram Quad meet on Thursday. The seventh-grader was thrust into action at 106 in replacing Jonah Savage, who had trouble making weight and has instead patrolled 113 most of the season. Bozeman coach J.D. Raybourne said Hofmeister’s addition to the lineup helped avoid forfeits in the lightest weight class and he admitted there weren’t lofty goals placed on the first-year competitor.
“He has exceeded our expectations,” Raybourne said. “He’s shocked us all and has really taken to wrestling like a duck to water.”
Hofmeister earned a forfeit win in the Bucks’ first dual match with Arnold. He won his second match against Bay’s Logan Acree in 19 seconds by pin fall and again earned a forfeit against Rutherford. Someone joked with Raybourne that Hofmeister should be put into a match at heavyweight just to have a bout.
“Oh, he’d do it,” Raybourne said.
Hofmeister agreed and said he entered the sport without nerves or fear. He has two older brothers, including one on Bozeman’s team, and wrestling and horsing around toughened him, he said. The rookie learned to stand up for himself at an early age and it’s translated on the mat, as he faces opponents as much as five years older.
“I’ll wrestle anybody,” Hofmeister said. “I’d wrestle anyone just to keep getting better. So far, I’ve done really well.”
That’s an understatement. Hofmeister spoke as if he had been wrestling for many years. Raybourne was thankful he can have Hofmeister for many more to come.
He added the ability to wrestle in a competitive environment will help Hofmeister gain experience that few others in Bay County receive. There is no middle school wrestling programs in county schools and Bozeman is allowed to have as young as sixth-graders on varsity teams since it’s a K-12 institution.
“It’s extremely important, especially if you’re looking to get to state and win it,” Raybourne said. “The hopes of a lot of Bay County high-schoolers to become state champs is harder because a lot of them can’t start until ninth grade.”
Hofmeister and some other Bucks are ahead of the curve and competing on the varsity level. However, he has been the most successful and has shown confidence and fire, Raybourne said. That was most evident on Tuesday when Hofmeister lost for the first time by technical fall.
Most wrestlers aren’t eager to wrestle again after a lopsided loss let alone face the same opponent again minutes later. There was a slight chance he would have been able to avenge the loss in the Wewahitchka event, but the opportunity didn’t materialize.
“I wanted another shot at him right away,” Hofmeister said. “I knew what he was like on the mat, I knew what I could do the second time.”
It’s that attitude to move forward and improve that impressed Raybourne and his coaching staff. Hofmeister isn’t bothered easily and if he is he doesn’t show it, Raybourne said.
Hofmeister also has maintained a level head even while starting off with a stellar record. That said, he added he wasn’t surprised by his early triumphs and had a quick and simple answer when asked if he’s exceeded his own expectations.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said.
He admitted there is room to improve, however. He said he needs to be a better thinker on the mat and also hone how he applies holds and learning better body position.
He’s done well thus far and Raybourne said Hofmeister earned a place in the lineup for the rest of the season. Where that is remains the question. Savage is likely to take over the reins at 106 after the Christmas break, but Raybourne said Hofmeister could succeed just as well at 113.
“He’s that good that you need to keep him in there,” Raybourne said.
Ram Quad meet results:
Dual-match scores: Rutherford 42, Bay 35; Bozeman 48, Arnold 31; Bozeman 66, Bay 18; Rutherford 39, Arnold 24; Arnold 47, Bay 30; Bozeman 54, Rutherford 30.
Team records: Bozeman 3-0, Rutherford 2-1, Arnold 1-2, Bay 0-3.