Pressure fueling Buckeyes fire on wrestling mat

Colt Sponseller feels the pressure from all angles. At 165 pounds he earned his 18th win on the season in a 4-2 decision over Dan Vallimont of Penn State.Sponseller is a three-time Ohio High School Division II State Champion as well as National High School Seniors Wrestling Champion.However, this season Sponseller and coach Tom Ryan have their eyes on a bigger prize. “Colt Sponseller holds the key to the national title for the Buckeyes,” Ryan said.That’s a tremendous amount of pressure, but Ryan knows that he can handle it. So far, Sponseller is taking it in stride.“The pressure motivates me more than I already am and motivates me to work that much harder,” Sponseller said.  After the Buckeyes defeated Penn State in a 21-14 decision Sunday, the team received a day off. Sponseller doesn’t take days off. He hit the gym for his usual workout, which came as no surprise to Ryan.Ryan noted that Sponseller was a frequent participant in optional summer workouts, and that he fills the gym with electricity.    Sponseller was hesitant to say he motivates other guys on the team. He doesn’t go out there trying to motivate others, but it seems hard not to be motivated by his work ethic and determination.    “He is a true warrior,” Ryan said. “He loves to train and truly embraces hard work.”As the Buckeyes enter their Big Ten schedule, the training really begins.Sponseller says he is pushing himself to clean up the little things, such as his mentality. “I’m focusing on my mental game, going in to the Big Ten and Nationals having a good confidence level and knowing I can beat anyone,” Sponseller said.Ryan asserts that Sponseller’s mentality is right up there with his strength of training.“His heart is his greatest asset,” Ryan said.      Sponseller’s strength and mentality are constantly challenging him to live up to his full ability, a value Ryan coaches every day. Sponseller has no problem with nerves, although someone very close to him does.At any given match as Sponseller takes to the mat, a whistling can be heard resounding through the crowd. That whistle is his mother, Sue Sponseller.“I tend to block it out now,” Sponseller said. “It’s been going on for about 16 years. I know she’s there because I can hear it, but it certainly doesn’t bother me.” Sponseller calls it his mother’s nervous habit. He imagines she is more nervous than him.Not only is Sponseller working toward a national title, but he is well on his way to beating the team records he set last season. Sponseller holds the team record for most wins, 28, most takedowns, 132, and most technical falls, five. He and the Buckeyes will wrestle at Purdue and Indiana Jan. 29 and Jan. 31, respectively.

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