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 so far, 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.
“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 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 state champion Alex Coffman of Mariner, who beat a wrestler in the final who 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 4A state 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 says he had to overcome a lack of athleticism and experience.
“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.”
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.