5A Centennial wrestling: Arapahoe captains take to leadership role

Posted 1/23/12

In sports, leadership can mean every bit of success. In high school sports, it can be the biggest character-building quality an athlete can learn. …

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5A Centennial wrestling: Arapahoe captains take to leadership role


In sports, leadership can mean every bit of success.

In high school sports, it can be the biggest character-building quality an athlete can learn.

And Arapahoe High School wrestling’s three team captains have learned plenty in this leadership role. What’s more, they’ve gotten to know the grapplers around them.

Seniors Jacob Sphatt, Joe Hamilton and Seth Hardcastle stepped into the role of team captains this season. Sphatt said being a team captain has helped him get to know a lot more of the wrestlers on the Warriors squad.

“If I wasn’t team captain, I wouldn’t make as much of an effort to get to know the wrestlers on junior varsity and freshman/sophomore teams.”

Although he claims not to be the best wrestler on the team, Hamilton feels he is encouraging of others and brings a positive attitude to the team.

“In wrestling it is easy to get down on yourself, and I have learned that you need to have a short memory and move on,” Hamilton said. “As of the captains before, I try and spread this value.”

Hardcastle finds building relationships is one character-trait that comes naturally to him. Through this, he has been able to connect with team members at all ages, and it has allowed him to better communicate with them and his coaches, he said.

“I have learned about the importance of hard work. It has enabled me to grow in every other aspect of my wrestling,” Hardcastle said.

Since his freshman year, Sphatt has grown plenty. That season, he didn’t face much competition on junior varsity.

“Not having good competition stifles a wrestler, because they can have success with their existing arsenal of technique,” Sphatt said. “I really didn’t grow until my sophomore and junior year.”

After his first year of varsity, Sphatt was eager to improve and was hungry for more competition. He wrestled 90 matches in between his sophomore and junior years and attended several camps that summer. He feels he has become far more mentally tough, a better leader and overall wrestler since his ninth grade season.

Hamilton feels his work ethic is what most improved since being a freshman.

‘I used to think that certain things were entitled to me, but then realized I needed to work hard to accomplish goals,” he said. “As a wrestler, I have few moves, but everyone knows I will shoot a double leg take down. This is basically just a tackle, but it is my bread and butter.”

Integrity is what Hardcastle feels makes him unique as a wrestler. He believes any mistake he makes during a bout is his alone.

“I can't blame others for what happens on the mat,” Hardcastle said. “I always try to win and lose with class and never overreact or lose my temper.”

Sphatt feels his intensity is what is most noticeable when he takes the mat.

“When I go out on the mat, my goal is to break my opponent down mentally,” he said. “I make sure my opponent knows that I am stronger, faster and meaner. Wrestling is 90 percent mental.”

Sphatt clings to his “go-to” moves, he said. His favorite and most successful pinning combination is his cradle. He usually has longer arms than most his opponents and he uses that to his advantage.

“Even though my opponents usually know that that is my go-to move, I can still get my cradle, locked up and get the pin,” Sphatt said.

Storming the ‘Castle

Hardcastle began wrestling as a freshman after Warriors coach Steve Sisler recruited him at Arapahoe’s Back to School dance that year. He feels people view him as passionate.

“When I find something I love and can commit my time to I will do it to the best of my ability and invest myself into it wholeheartedly,” Hardcastle said.

Prior to every bout, the senior wears the same T-shirt during warm up. It was handed down to him from his older brother, a huge influence on the grappler in regards to who he is as a person and a competitor. In addition, at every match and tournament, Hardcastle’s mother brings him a package of sliced green apples.

“They were originally just a snack my mom wanted me to try and now they've become a tradition for every tournament,” he said.

Hardcastle plans on wrestling in college next year. He hopes to attend ether Augustana College in Illinois or Wartburg College in Iowa.

Hamil-ton of bricks

Hamilton started wrestling when he was in eighth grade at age 14. He was tired of playing basketball. He was short and too aggressive to play hoops, he said, so his friend Michael suggested he give wrestling a shot. The captain said he tries to be a leader off the mat as well.

“I am a very hard worker,” Hamilton said. “I do not like to lose on the mat and off. I do not like to fail. In order to succeed, I work hard.”

Unlike Hardcastle, Hamilton doesn’t have a “good luck” shirt. He said he tried not to think about his matches too much, because he will psych himself out. Instead, he listens to calming music to “lessen his nerves.”

Although he knows it sounds cheesy, Hamilton believes once a person is a wrestler, he or she will always be a wrestler. The values learned from wrestling exceed those capable of being learned in any other sport, he said.

“I may wrestle in club in college, but high school will be the extent of my competitive wrestling,” Hamilton said.


Sphatt started wrestling when in fifth grade. Before that, he was a soccer and baseball athlete and even though he enjoyed playing, he really didn’t love the sport.

“I didn’t like the whole team-sport aspect, because you had to depend on your teammates heavily for the team to do well,” he said. “I’ve always been an aggressive kid, and my parents decided to sign me up for wrestling.”

After the first practice of beating up on his wrestling partner, Sphatt knew he loved the sport. He said he’s a different person when he’s off the mat. When not in a meet or at practice, he cracks jokes and is more jovial.

“But when it’s time to work and compete, I put my game face on,” Sphatt said.

Sphatt is also without pre-match rituals. He simply listens to music to get pumped up and ready to wrestle. The senior also sees his life in the sport extending to the post-secondary.

“I see myself wrestling in college,” Sphatt said. “I am not ready to end my wrestling career yet.”

On the warpath

As for the Warriors wrestling team, Sphatt said there is a lot of strength this season and not because its grapplers are better technicians than their opponents. Attitude is the reason.

“It’s because we are meaner, tougher and in better shape,” Sphatt said. “In the past, we haven’t been as tough as we are this year. I think that our team this year just loves the sport and is hungry for the taste of winning.”

This year has been special for Hamilton, who said coach Sisler has made sure each wrestler has the same value.

“This has made everyone believe in the team and the team has been close,” he said.

The will to work has also made Arapahoe’s wrestlers unique, Hardcastle said. Each wrestler wants to do the work and holds a passion for the sport and the team which he’s never seen before, he said.

“We never quit,” Hardcastle said. “When we are down or behind in a match, we fight until the whistle. It's become a team mentality that has led to all our success this year.”

Hardcastle said, in years past, he has not seen half the intensity he does every day in practice with his present squad, and it has made the Warriors work better together and have more fun doing it.


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