"I had To Win"
After helping Cinco Ranch win the team title at State and finishing 5th individually last year Gioffre had hoped to go unscored upon this year in winning an individual State Championship - a feat he almost accomplished. But after amassing a perfect 44-0 record on the season heading into the championship finals, he found himself trailing in overtime with just seconds left in the match Saturday. Now winning alone became the goal. "I was thinking the whole time that I had to win. I had to finish first, nobody ever remembers if you finish second. First was the only thing that mattered."
The Final Match
Here's a play by play of the Championship match where Gioffre squared off against Arlington Bowie's Mohammed Usman:
1st; 1:00 gone little action. Gioffre attacks can't finish, Gioffre again has Usman backing up. Tie-up kills last :20 and we go to the second scoreless.
2nd; Gioffre down and escapes immediately back to heavyweight dance. Double stall warning, Gioffre shoots but Usman (who has no shots) spins behind for TD. Boos ring out. Gioffre out again 2-2. End of second.
3rd; Gioffre starts on feet down 3-2, Usman hit for stalling 3-3. Gioffre runs him Out of Bounds again 1:21 left all even. Good action last 10 seconds but into OT we go.
OT; :27 left on restart. Usman in, Gioffre throws OB. Back on feet. :18 seconds remain More good action but into the tie break we go.
OT2; Usman down first, Gioffre rides for 11 seconds and then another restart, Gioffre flattens him, Usman works to his feet, Gioffre holds on somehow.
OT3; Now Gioffre begins from down postion and needs escape or reversal because he's down 3-2, Gioffre gets up but driven OB. Gioffre up on all fours and "Granbys" out for escape to tie it at 3-3, then Gioffre gets Take Down on desperation shot to win 6-3. The Granby from the big man was a thing of beauty!!
The "Granby Roll" is a wrestling technique whereby the wrestler in the bottom position gets his feet planted on the mat, tri-pods up by raising his hips, then rolls forward on the back of his shoulders, thus gaining either a reversal or an escape (worth 1 point). Gioffre executed the move to perfection and followed it seconds later with a Take Down (worth 3 points) to win the Final.
Gioffre #2 !?!
Gioffre finishes his season with a perfect record of 45-0 and of course the State Championship for his trophy case. Interesting that Gioffre had gone almost the entire year without even being scored upon but was ranked for most of the year the #2 Heavyweight by Inside Texas Wrestling behind El Paso Eastwood's Eddie Noriega. The two could have met in the Finals, but that match-up of #1 versus #2 never happened - Noriega was beaten by Usman in the Semi-Finals. Gioffre said,"In my mind leading up to state I always pictured myself wrestling Eddie. I have to give Mohammed credit though. He's extremely fast." And credit is due Usman, who not only is lightning fast but is also incredibly strong. He's only about 6-1 245 pounds - so Noriega (6-6 tall) and Gioffre both were much bigger wrestlers than he, each wrestling at the 285 lb. maximum for the class. Usman was also recruited by Rice for football but signed with the University of Houston where he will play Defensive End.
Gioffre's season record is quite impressive considering the level of competition he faced. Those talented opponents included Texas A&M football signee Eddie Brown of Waller, and also J.T. Woodard of Houston Westside who also made it to State, finishing 4th after losing to Noriega in the match for 3rd Place.
With his obviously talent on the mat, I asked John last fall if he had been recruited to wrestle in college by anyone. Surprisingly, he said "not really. A few of the Ivy League schools contacted me last year but I told them I was going to Rice to play football so that was pretty much the end of it."
Football: His First Love
With a championship behind him Gioffre points his "vision quest" to another sport. "Football is definitely my first love" he told me in a recent conversation. His vision there is the same - to be the best, to be a champion. John will report to campus in June with many of the 2008 signing class. He will have a great opportunity to play this fall as the Owls look to build depth at the Noseguard position. I like that he's been wrestling for the past several months. As a result his conditioning is excellent for a big man. If you've ever wrestled, even non-competitively, you know how exhausting it is. He constantly had to make weight at 285 pounds for wrestling but I expect him to show up around 300 pounds now that his season is over. He'll have 3 months to work on "football" strength. Though his work on the mat will surely give him an advantage at his football position - where using his footwork, leverage, and strength holding his position will mean success for the defensive front. Gioffre added, "I'll really be able to start lifting and running now. In wrestling you really don't lift much because when you do you get so sore it effects your wrestling. I'll start lifting heavy now and doing sprint work. I'll start going up to Velocity (sports training) this next week."
The Type of Player Rice Needs
While his Wrestling Championship is impressive, I think the way he won it shows the type of competitor he is. He came from behind, and wasn't satisfied to tie - if you read his comments above, you realize that when the defining moment came, winning was Gioffre's only goal at that point. With seconds left and the score tied he could have rested upon a tie and more overtime - instead he went for the win and got it. As Rice builds it's football team into perhaps C-USA Champions, it needs individuals who already march to that beat - players like Gioffre who will accept nothing less than being champion. It will take a team of players with that attitude for Coach David Bailiff to get that C-USA title. Give him and his staff credit for finding players like John Gioffre. But give John the credit for having the heart of a champion - well done...