Former Academy Wrestler Dreams of Olympics
Feb. 10, 2004
by Bob Wallace (reprinted with permission of Asbury Park Press) -
Some athletes make a career of Olympic training.
Not Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Kevin Hoy from Waretown, N.J. Hoy's dream of being an Olympic wrestler is just a one-time pursuit before beginning pilot training in the Air Force next Fall.
"In high school, athletics were important," Hoy said. "Sometimes, I would make athletics a little too high a priority. Coming to the Academy, I started to realize that wrestling is just a game, and it's going to end when your body wears out or you can't do it anymore. So you've got to look more long-term, and keep your perspective."
Don't let Hoy's wholesome looks and bristly red hair fool you either.
"He looks like Opie," said Air Force wrestling coach Wayne Baughman. "But in a streetfight or a wrestling match, I'd choose him over anybody who's ever come through this school."
Hoy was not heavily recruited coming out of South Regional High School. But once at Air Force, Hoy compiled a remarkable record as a freestyle heavyweight. He was twice named All-American, went 44-4 his senior season, and finished his collegiate career as runner-up in the NCAA nationals before graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering last May.
"I just never really thought there wasn't anybody I couldn't beat. That comes from my family not from sports, just in my values. That's the way my family raised me," Hoy said of mother Sheryl, father Tom and older brother Erik.
Hoy is now in the Air Force's World Class Athlete Program â€" which gives military athletes time away from their military duties to train in amateur athletics â€" and trains with the U.S. National team at the Olympic Training Center. Hoy will match with some of the world's best when he competes in the Dave Schultz Memorial Invitational wrestling tournament Feb. 6-8 at the OTC.
Hoy is ranked seventh nationally at 120 kilos (264.5 lbs) by USA Wrestling. Only the top-finisher in each weight division at the Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis, May 21-23, will qualify for the Olympic team. Hoy will have to pre-qualify for the team trials at one of several regional qualifiers, or by finishing in the top eight at U.S. Nationals May 8 in Las Vegas.
"I'm not too worried about qualifying for the trials," Hoy said. "I'm a long shot (for the Olympics) right now, but I'm going to keep working every match hard, and see where I end up."
Long shot is a familiar place for Hoy. Throughout his wrestling career, Hoy has shown a penchant for defying odds, and coming from behind to win matches in the final seconds.
"I have about two matches like that a year," Hoy said. "Those matches where I kind of worry are ones where I seem to pull it out."
Hoy is small for a heavyweight, 240 pounds, but he makes up for his lack of mass with cunning.
"He's a poised, intelligent wrestler," national developmental freestyle coach Dave Bennett said of Hoy. "He may not be a giant, but he works hard."
Nevertheless, Hoy will likely have to defeat both top-ranked Olympic veteran Kerry McCoy, and fourth-ranked Steve Mocco, of North Bergen, to make the Olympic team. (It was Mocco who beat Hoy in the NCAA finals last year.) USA wrestling officials agree that, if Hoy were to keep training with the national team, he'd have a more practical chance at making the 2008 Olympic team.
"He has the potential," Bennett said.
But Hoy has seen his life mapped out beyond wrestling for some years now.
"I thought about wrestling longer," Hoy said. "But, for the most part I'll probably be done after this. I've got a pilot training slot, and I'll start that once I get done with wrestling, probably in the fall."