Jake Hines barely worked up a sweat in his first District 6 Class AAA Tournament as a 103-pound freshman in 2008, recording a second-period pin in the semifinals and a pin of Central Mountain's Forrest Bechdel with a second left in the first period in the finals.
It was really the first glimpse district wide of a kid who was very dangerous on the mat. With a vast knowledge of big moves and pinning combinations, Hines was already developing into a pinner.
Three years later, Hines is Altoona's career record holder for pins with 80, and he's third all-time among Mirror coverage area wrestlers, trailing only Tyrone's A.J. Schopp (94) and Terry Tate (91). Another Golden Eagle, Ronnie Garbinsky, is hot on his heels with 78.
With 25 falls this season, Hines has set a new high for himself. That shouldn't be that much of a surprise, but what makes him so dangerous?
"He's explosive, and he goes for it," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "When you have a guy like that, he's looking for the fall the whole time. That's what makes him so dangerous, I believe. He's physical and strong in a lot of different positions. If he's on his game, he's as good as anybody."
The quiet Hines lets his wrestling do the talking for the most part. He will say it's fun to get the pins, but there is a drawback to all the quick work.
n He became Altoona's first freshman district champion in 2008.
n He's 32-4 with 25 pins this season.
n His career record is 107-30.
"It feels pretty good, but sometimes I wish the matches would go all three periods," Hines said, "so I could take some time to work some moves out and make the match more interesting."
Hines has remained a pinner despite moving up in weight this season. He started at 130 pounds last season and wound up at 119 for districts. He's stayed at 140 this season, moving sometimes to 145.
"It's pretty different because the kids are a lot stronger at 140," Hines said. "In the summer and on the break, I've been working on my moves. More of the upper body stuff worked as a lightweight. I was a pretty big lightweight."
He'll enter this week's district tournament as one of the favorites to win at 140. As the first Altoona freshman to ever win a district title, Hines was expected to return to the finals every year and win gold. He did make it back as a junior, but he ran into Indian Valley's very tough Kaleb Loht and lost, 7-0. To be fair, he was the second seed the last two years.
"103 pounds is a different weight class altogether," Gilbert said. "It's almost like the heavyweight weight class. He made it to the district finals last year, and the year before, he took fourth, so it's not like he's been out of it. He just came into some hard times wrestling live against good opponents. Those things happen."
"It's been pretty tough," Hines said. "I should have made it to the finals each year. It was an amazing feeling being the first freshman from up here to win districts. I thought there was going to be a lot more."
Hines, who began wrestling in the second grade, went 23-11 with 13 pins as a freshman. That was Gilbert's first season as the Mountain Lions' head coach, and he was happy to see Hines excel.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," Gilbert said. "I heard he was a pretty good wrestler, but he slowly but surely evolved into a guy that can be counted on by the team and can be counted on throughout the program. He's helped out moving mats and he's helped out with the elementary program. He's lived up to his billing in my book."
Hines' run to the finals as a sophomore was stopped by Philipsburg-Osceola's Nick Gurol, who pinned him in the semifinals. Central Mountain's Dillon Gavlock later upset him, 8-7, in the consolation finals, causing him to miss a return trip to the Altoona Fieldhouse for the Northwest Regional Tournament.
After going 25-7 with 19 pins as a sophomore, he went 27-8 with 23 falls as a junior. Hines couldn't solve the problems that Loht created.
"I kind of knew I'd make it, but the finals match was tough," Hines said. "It just wasn't my night."
Hines is 32-4 going into districts, and none of his losses were to District 6 Class AAA wrestlers. Two of his losses came to area Class AA wrestlers Justin Miller of Penn Cambria and Garbinsky. All of his losses came by fall interestingly enough.
He most likely didn't take the losses too hard.
"He doesn't get too excited over things," Gilbert said. "He's just one of those kids who comes to practice every day and works hard whether he likes what I'm doing in practice or whether he doesn't. He's not a vocal leader. Jake is more of a leader by what he does in the practice room."
Hines is aiming beyond the districts to the regional tournament and the PIAA Championships. He's come as close as the regional semifinals as a freshman, but he's never wrestled in Hershey.
"I think I should be able to make it to states," Hines said. "I'm going to do my hardest and try to end up in Hershey."