When Huntley senior Zach Spencer won his blood-round match, assuring himself a medal, at the individual wrestling state meet last weekend in Champaign, the 126-pounder held back tears.
After three trips to state with nothing to show for it, Spencer finally had earned a medal on his last attempt.
Not far off the mat, his younger brother, sophomore Sammy Spencer, felt tears in his eyes, too.
“I felt so good for him, knowing how hard he works,” Sammy Spencer said. “All those years he never made it out. To finally get over that hump, that gave me goosebumps.”
Both brothers ended up on the podium Saturday night. Zach took fifth at 126 pounds in Class 3A, while Sammy was fifth at 113.
The brothers will try to earn another medal this weekend, along with the rest of their teammates, when Huntley heads to the dual team state meet Saturday in Bloomington. It marks Huntley’s first trip to dual state. The Red Raiders face Glenbard North in a Class 3A state quarterfinal at 9 a.m.
For any wrestler, the dream of ending up on the podium starts in the wrestling room at practice. For the Spencers, that’s where they beat up on each other.
At 113 and 126 pounds, respectively, Sammy and Zach Spencer have been each other’s primary wrestling partners at practice.
It has led to some intense battles.
“It’s a brotherly battle,” Sammy Spencer said. “I’m not trying to lose to my brother, even though most of the time I do. When I get him, it’s pretty tense.”
With two more years of experience and a few more pounds than Sammy, Zach has a slight advantage. But when the sophomore does best the senior, the older brother usually is not happy about it.
“The older brother mentality sometimes gets me – I get a little angry,” Zach Spencer said. “It makes us better. You can just see how it went at (individual) state, we were so much better because of it.”
Although they might be close in weight, Zach Spencer doesn’t think he and his brother are similar style wrestlers at all. Sammy’s best when he’s on his feet, whereas Zach is at his best down on the mat.
Wrestling against each other has given them both a chance to improve on the weaker aspects of their games. Sammy also has benefited from wrestling someone a little bit bigger and stronger.
“He’s intense,” Sammy said. “If I didn’t practice with him, my practices would be so much easier. We get [angry] at each other, I’m not going to lie.”
Sophomore teammate David Ferrante has enjoyed watching the Spencers go at it over the past two years. Ferrante, a 160-pounder, had hoped to join them on the medal stand last weekend but lost his blood-round match.
“It’s cool because they get to push each other every day,” Ferrante said. “There’s a competitive edge between the two. I don’t want to say animosity, but there’s a fire between the two. They don’t want to lose to one another.”
Sammy Spencer improved to 44-6 with his win in the dual team sectional against Prospect on Tuesday night. Zach Spencer upped his record to 46-9.
B.J. Bertelsman, in his seventh season as Huntley’s coach, has had brothers come through the program before, but none quite like the Spencers.
The Huntley coaches kicked around the idea of having Zach Spencer wrestle at 132 in the individual state tournament. Zach Spencer wrestled most of Huntley’s dual matches at 132 and fared well.
When Bertelsman told Zach Spencer he thought he could medal at 132, Zach responded that he wasn’t trying to medal, he wanted a state championship. So the senior stuck with 126. But it’s that mentality that led to a medalist performance last weekend, and could make the difference this weekend in Bloomington.
“You’re never going to outpace or outlast those guys,” Bertelsman said.