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Wrestling: Difficult decision pays off for Spencer Empey


12:00 AM, Jan. 05, 2013 EST

Reed's Spencer Empey, right, defeated Shea Nolan from Rio Rancho High School in California in the championship match of the 215 pound division of the 2010 Reno Tournament of Champions Wrestling Tournament at the Reno Events Center on Saturday, Dec. 17. Photo by Tom Smedes.

Reed senior Spencer Empey sat in the stands watching, as the team he'd started for the season before -- the Reed Raiders football team -- marched to a second consecutive Northern regional championship and into the state title game in 2012.

His final year of high school can be summed up in one word: sacrifice.

Because he decided to pursue wrestling, he missed out on things he said many of his friends would choose in a heartbeat.

"I would have liked to be right there next to them, but I made the decision and didn't look back," Empey said. "I've made many sacrifices over the years like always going to extra practices, running and putting in extra time, but it's starting to pay off."

In dividends, the 220-pound heavyweight has won 116 matches in a row -- the longest active wrestling win streak in Nevada high school history -- with his most recent being a championship at the Sierra Nevada Classic, where he went 4-0.

On Dec. 9, Empey received an emailed acceptance letter and a nearly full-ride athletic/academic scholarship offer to California Polytechnic State University.

A 4.65 weighted GPA is the only thing that trumps his potential as a wrestler -- something he became at age 8 -- said Dan Baraza, Empey's wrestling coach at Reed.

It was hot day during football's summer double days when Empey realized which sport he would focus on.

Empey told Reed football coach Ernie Howren that wrestling was his true calling. It wasn't long before that he expressed his excitement for his senior season starting at center and defensive end.

"It was a difficult decision, and there were sacrifices for sure because he had a lot of close friends on the team that he'd been playing and going to school with since before junior high," said Empey's father, Dave, who also wrestled at Reed and graduated in 1983.

"But he came to the conclusion he wanted to go into his wrestling season injury-free so he could make the best run at it that he could his senior year, and he was also making some college recruiting trips, too, so that was going to cause a conflict. I know there were times it was very difficult and that he was regretting, but on the other hand, it was a time to look at the larger picture, and we all as a family knew he made the right decision."

After not losing a match since his 30-14 freshman wrestling season -- going 50-0 during his sophomore year and 44-0 the next -- it was impossible not to support his decision, his father said. He is 22-0 so far this season.

Empey also won the Sportsmanship of the Year Award after the 2011-12 season, which is awarded by area referees.

Empey took visits to several college campuses over the past few months, including Princeton, Drexel, Brown, Pennsylvania and more. He was also accepted to Stanford -- all while continuing to evolve as a wrestler, going 18-0 so far in his senior season.

"Wrestling isn't too glamorous, but there's also stuff behind the scenes people don't see," Empey said. "It's those things that make the sport what it is to me, and I owe everything to my family, coach Dan, (Reed's) assistant coach Chad Espinosa and so many more."

 

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