There was nothing sophisticated about Steve Hoff's rise to wrestling fame in the mid-1970s at Westminster High.
He simply used brute strength to manhandle opponents for a 73-2 career record and three state championships.
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.
"I guess you could say I just used my natural talent and strength to beat up on people," said Hoff, who grew up on a farm and still works on two beef cattle farms near Reese in Carroll County. "I was physically strong and into it mentally. It seemed like I remembered everything people taught me. It all just clicked for me."
Hoff, 36, never had to worry about making weight and didn't think much about technique -- the two major concerns of modern-day wrestlers.
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 138 in 1974, 145 in 1975 and 155 in 1976.
"Steve had what it takes to be a champion," said his coach, Wes Keffer, who is now 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."
Being a quick learner and having the strength of a bull prompted the University of Kentucky to recruit Hoff.
"They wanted him but Steve told me to tell all the colleges he wasn't interested," said Keffer. "He wanted to stay on the farm."
However, Hoff did leave the farm for a week to participate in an Olympic training program in Brockport, N.Y., shortly after graduating from high school in 1976.
He dropped out of the program after a week, saying he "had no one to push him."
"Sometimes I think about what I missed by not staying in the program," said Hoff. "It was more like a job than a lot of fun like it was in high school. You spent four hours learning three moves and there was a strict schedule set up for you. Everything's different in Olympic freestyle wrestling."
His zest for wrestling didn't die and he returned to the sport as a coach in the Francis Scott Key junior program, preparing many youngsters for a high school career.
The three-time champ has been an important factor in the Eagles replacing North Carroll at the top of the ladder in Carroll County high school wrestling this season.
Randy Owings is Hoff's second cousin and was then participating in the Key program. Now a senior at Key, Owings has won two state titles and hopes to join Hoff as Carroll County's only three-time state champions in two weeks at the states.
Several Westminster High wrestling enthusiasts have asked Hoff to coach the Owls, but he said his farm schedule prevents it.
"It felt good to win those titles," said Hoff, whose sone, Steve III, is a junior 130-pounder for the Owls. "I was always able to stay focused on the mat no matter what else happened around me."