Sam Voigtlaender knows he’s wrestling in long shadows.
Teammates Jordan and Chandler Rogers and Jeremy Golding own five state titles among them with the promise of more.
This year, sporting a 28-2 record, maybe he’ll cast a shadow of his own and join them.
Voigtlaender isn’t as well-known as the trio. In fact, his name more often than not has been misspelled on rosters, in The Spokesman-Review, even in last year’s state wrestling bracket.
The first “e” is left out of his last name, but there’ve been no calls for corrections.
“You know, as long as the spelling is close enough people know who it is,” Voigtlaender said. “I know who I am. That’s just a small mistake.”
A late comer to wrestling and perhaps is not as naturally gifted as his state champion teammates, he knows mistakes. But his work ethic carries the day.
“He trains hard and is a self-made wrestler,” said his coach, Phil McLean. “He’s a kid who shows you can accomplish anything through hard work.”
Work and will landed Voigtlaender in the State 4A tournament last year where he finished third. It is a result he deems bittersweet. He lost by three points in the semifinals to Mariner state champion Alex Coffman, who beat a wrestler in the finals that Voigtlaender had defeated in regional the week before.
This year, the Panthers’ 170-pounder is part of a wrestling murderer’s row from 145 through 182 pound weight classes that helped them run roughshod over the Greater Spokane League and stamps them a State 4A title favorite.
“It would really be the culmination of hard work over a few years,” Voigtlaender said. “It would be a great ending to four years with the team.”
Voigtlaender didn’t begin wrestling until the seventh grade and said he had to overcome a lack of athleticism and experience. It wasn’t until he reached high school that he began to conquer the sport.
“Back then it was night and day,” he said of his middle school experience. “They (middle school wrestlers) were amazing at that age, especially so technically sound. I had to learn the basics.”
His first two years at Mead he began to understand by working out with myriad partners, including coaches, who aided in his development.
“I really didn’t start wrestling at a higher level until last year,” Voigtlaender said. “At district my sophomore year I finished fourth instead of third (missing the last regional berth). I told myself I wouldn’t be in that position again.”
The Panthers have a three-word motto, “and then some,” as in doing what’s expected and then more.
If it took two workouts or more a day, that’s what Voigtlaender did. If it meant getting thumped by teammates to improve technique – including against Jordan Rogers – that was fine. Voigtlaender said Rogers was good at watching what he did and seeing the little things that he needed to fix. Other than that it was sweat equity that made the huge difference.
When others are arriving for school in the morning, they would find Voigtlaender returning from a run, Chandler Rogers said.
“His work ethic is phenomenal,” Jordan Rogers said. “Sam stays after practices all the time. He works out twice. He always does that little bit extra.”
Last year he narrowly missed joining his teammates in the state finals. This year Voigtlaender wants more.
“I’ve always been driven to want to be the best in just about anything I do,” he said. “I see extra practice and pushing myself as a way to see the fruits of my labors.”
Maybe this time he’ll get his name spelled right.