Article appeared in the January 2 edition of the LaRue County Herald News
There is a great quote that reads: Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose. Such is the case for LaRue County Hawks Sophomore wrestler Thomas Hoppes, who has quietly made a name for himself on the high school wrestling circuit.
Hoppes is in his fourth varsity year as a sophomore. He is a lightweight so typically smaller guys tend to be younger. But, he has been a standout since he has been a varsity wrestler, qualifying for state every year since being called up. Not only has he excelled on the mat, but in the classroom carries a 4.0 GPA, and is currently ranked second in the class of 2021.
Hoppes has been involved in wrestling since the second grade. “One of my step father’s friends introduced me to wrestling. I instantly fell in love with it. I was motivated by my love for sports. I always wanted to try something new and I found wrestling. I have been wrestling for nine years now. On the mat I see myself as aggressive and very competitive. On the other hand off the mat I find myself as a very calm person, and a gentleman. I love that this sport teaches you so many life lessons; discipline and integrity. It allows me to better myself in every aspect. It has taught me to be humble when I win, but also show great sportsmanship when something doesn’t go my way.”
When asked what Hoppes is like on and off the mat, Head Coach Eric Burrell has plenty to brag on. “Thomas on and off the mat are about the same. He is a great kid who is super competitive in whatever he does. Whether it be school, in which he is a 4.0 student or on the mat in which he purposefully pushes himself beyond his capabilities time and time again. He has a great demeanor, quiet and talks with a purpose. Not a very vocal leader, prefers actions over words but when he does talk people listen.”
Burrell continues his praise for Hoppes by talking about his unique approach to training for wrestling. “Young kids have a hard time with the overtraining that wrestling calls for, the running, working through pain, the mental stress as we call it “the grind” will make even the best athletes crumble. But Thomas thrives on it, he often gets in an extra workout, stays after to train, is discipline with his diet, he is something else. He puts in the work, buys into the idea that it will pay off in the end. For him, it has.”
Assistant Coach Tim Gross who opens up the field house every morning for wrestlers to come in and lift and condition sees great potential in Hoppes. “He starts out every morning before school in the weight room and gets to work. Practice in the afternoon is all business, and he will eventually get a third workout in after practice. Thomas focuses on three things with his control: effort, attitude and aggressiveness. He steps out on the mat with a ton of confidence, and it will take someone pretty darn tough to stop him. He is a great role model for any wrestler, and he makes others around him better every day.”
Assistant Coach Brad Walters sees a unique competitive spirit in Hoppes. “The thing that stands out most about Thomas Hoppes is how competitive he is. Whether it’s wrestling, or running in a race, or taking a math test, or flipping a coin, he is gonna do everything in his power to win. He hates losing more than he likes winning. He also never avoids competition. He wants to wrestle the best kid another team has to offer even if it means bumping up and wrestling someone heavier than he is. He is one of if not the most self-driven kids I have ever coached. It’s impossible for us to be as hard on him as he is on himself.”
Burrell concludes by adding, “Something that really makes me proud to be his coach is his outlook on competition. Thomas is really not afraid to wrestle anyone. If there a state champion at the weight above he will ask to bump up a weight class to wrestle him, he doesn’t care about his record. He wants that level of competition every match. He knows and understands that he learns more and grows more from that tougher competition than from a fifteen second win. That level of maturity and understanding is unheard of from kids that age, or even most adults.
Hoppes is expected to excel this season, and make a deep run in the region and state tournament. He is three-time state qualifier, and a two-time region finalist. He placed sixth last year at the KHSAA State Championships. He has accumulated 95 wins through his freshman year.
Hoppes’ expectations for his team and himself are very clear. “This year I expect another region title for the Hawks wrestling team, but for me personally I plan to win the region and make it to the state finals. I have learned that I can keep up with the best kids in the state. I also learned that the extra work that I do put in will pay off. The coaching staff here is absolutely amazing. Every coach congratulates me when I win, but also works on my mistakes when I lose. They always keep my head up and keep me focused. They are very supportive and make the wrestling experience great.”