Like father, like son. Jacob Spadoni has taken over the reigns of coaching the Gig Harbor wrestling team from his father, Leonard, who stepped down after last season. Spadoni graduated from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, in May. He wrestled for the Chargers after wrestling at Gig Harbor High School.
Spadoni, 22, graduated from Gig Harbor High School in 2012. After the elder Spadoni decided to shift his focus toward his full-time work, the younger Spadoni stepped in.
“I’m fresh out of college and still trying to figure out what I want to do, so I have plenty of time to put into it right now,” Spadoni said.
Spadoni inherits some of the same issues his father had; namely, low turnout for the team. This year’s varsity team has only eight wrestlers, forcing the team to forfeit a lot of weight classes during dual meets.
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“We don’t have many kids on the team, but we have really tough kids,” Spadoni said.
That includes John Bittinger (152 pounds), Zayne Ball (160) and Zach Batanian (182), three wrestlers who Spadoni believes can reach the state meet this season. But with a small roster, the team results may not reflect the strength of Gig Harbor’s small team.
“Against North Thurston, for example, we had seven wrestlers and only lost two matches,” Spadoni said. “But we lost the meet because we forfeit quite a few weights. It’s kind of been the same thing throughout.”
Spadoni is actively working to reverse the low turnout trend, targeting football players who aren’t participating in winter sports.
“We’re trying to get kids to be three-sport athletes rather than just one-sport athletes,” Spadoni said. “A lot of kids looking to go to college need to be doing wrestling, for football. Or something in the offseason. A lot of college coaches won’t even look at you if you don’t do other sports. We’ve had some more interest from football players this year. Some linemen, big guys. We just need to keep bringing it back up and hopefully keep building.”
Spadoni describes himself as a laid-back coach, but said he has been surprised by the stress that comes with coaching.
“Watching one of my teammates wrestle is a lot different than coaching,” he said. “There’s a lot more stress involved. I feel like you get more into the matches.”
Spadoni said he’s enjoying his first stint at a wrestling coach.
“I really enjoy connecting with the kids,” he said. “I have a great group and they’re really fun to coach.”