Hungry Like the Wolf

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park junior Spenser Wolf has four goals and one assist for the Rangers on the soccer field this season.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — He'll run up and down the soccer field on weeknights to chase after a ball to put past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net, and he has established himself as a candidate to do just that.

He will cap off his team's drives by booting the pigskin through the uprights on Friday evenings after they score a touchdown, or if need be, he'll be entrusted for the field goal.

Oh yeah, and then he'll wake up early the very next morning to race you somewhere through the woods on a Saturday, and chances are, he'll beat you at that, too.

Some athletes compete in three sports in a year, but Forest Park junior Spenser Wolf is doing three this fall. Wolf got up at 4:15 a.m. on Sept. 5 to run in the Terre Haute Savings Bank State Preview, hours after competing for Forest Park football the night before. The junior partook in his first kickoff when he kicked to Tell City, taking the instructions to kick the ball and get off the field.

He didn’t see much action apart from that, due to the Rangers being shut out, but he got around five or six hours of sleep, and competed as an individual at Terre Haute, finishing sixth place overall with a time of 16:06.1. Wolf competed separately from his teammates, running against athletes from bigger schools. It was the first race he didn’t win this season, after having three to his credit before.

Wolf makes sure to maintain his grades as a straight-A student while competing in soccer, football and cross country at Forest Park.

“He knows if his grades dip down, he’s going to lose a couple of them,” Spenser’s father, Forest Park cross country coach Philip Wolf said.

Spenser knows the hard work that comes with balancing school and three sports. It took a while for him to learn those time management skills, but now, they're a habit for him. He maintains the 4:15 a.m. wake up during weekdays, too — getting a workout in with fellow junior runner Bryce Troesch before school.

“Most days, I’ll go to soccer after school, and then sometimes after soccer, if I’m feeling good, I’ll go kick football,” Spenser said. “And after that, I get my homework done, that or I do it during study hall during school.”

Forest Park junior Spenser Wolf has won three cross country races in 2020.

He’s been a multi-sport athlete since he was in junior high, playing soccer and running cross country, and this year, he added football onto his plate. Some of his football teammates with the Rangers tried for a good while to get him to come out for the squad, and this year, he finally agreed, citing the brotherhood that comes with the game, but he has no regrets about not coming out sooner.

"I needed to get my schedule with two sports down before I needed to go to three, so I think I joined at the right time," he said.

Rangers football coach Ross Fuhs likes the job Spenser has done so far as a kicker, lauding the time he put in during the summer. He has mostly just been utilized for extra points after Forest Park scores a touchdown, but Fuhs has the full confidence in him to kick a field goal if the situation arises, and they’ll continue to count on him all year long.

He’s also noticed the improvement in Spenser’s kicking mechanic as time goes on, and there’s never been a doubt in his commitment to football with everything else going on.

“Honestly, I wasn’t that worried about it because I know how he is as a kid, I know how his work ethic is,” Fuhs said. “So I knew if he was going to come into something, he wasn’t just going to put 50 percent effort into it. He was going to give it his all, and that’s what he’s been doing.”

He was previously a defender on the soccer field, but moved to play center midfield his junior year. Spenser has made an offensive impact for the Rangers, scoring four goals and one assist thus far in 2020. Forest Park boys soccer coach Mike Foerster said opposing teams haven’t gotten used to Spenser in his new role, and hailed him as a student of the game. Foerster put him at midfield this year following some graduations. He does miss having Spenser play defense, but he has younger players at defender now.

“He’s a smart kid and he’s got wherewithal on the field,” Foerster said. “He sees the field well, and he’s not afraid to go to goal.”

Foerster may not see Spenser every day, but he knows he’s staying fit doing three sports, and he supports him doing that as long as he keeps giving the team the effort he’s been giving.

Spenser will sometimes have all three sports intersect on the same day. He won the Aug. 15 Warpath Borden Invite with a time of 16:27, and celebrated that win for about 5-10 minutes. Then he had to put that behind him as Philip drove him to his soccer scrimmage against Heritage Hills that afternoon. It was the first of two scrimmages he had that day, as he put the pads on that evening for the football scrimmage against Paoli.

Philip usually allows Spenser to sleep in on Wednesdays to let him recuperate, but Sept. 2 was an exception, as he practiced all three sports back-to-back-to-back.

“He ended up going to soccer from 3:15 to 5:00, went to from 5:00 to 5:30-5:45, then he did the same cross country workout that we did a couple hours before right after that,” Philip said. “So, he got home probably about 7:30. So, we went straight from 3:15 to 7:30 with all three sports. That’s the first time we’ve done that. Usually, we try to space it out.”

Spenser will run at the Brown County Eagle Classic Saturday, followed by a two-hour drive to play soccer at Pike Central, with about a 10-minute window before the game starts. Spenser's presence will be needed, as some of his teammates are under quarantine. Philip knows his son staying healthy during a time like this is especially crucial.

"Me and (Mother Karrie are) taking additional steps because, obviously, if he gets the virus, it's going to affect three teams pretty hard," he said. "So, we've actually taken additional steps and we drive him to every football game, every soccer game, we follow the bus, and as soon as they get out, he goes out with them. We don't want him to take down three different teams."

All three sports help Spenser out with the other sports in some way. Football helps his leg strength for soccer, while soccer helps with conditioning for cross country and cross country helps his conditioning for soccer. Mixing the sports up helps him avoid burnout of the three he's involved in.

Spenser is one of many student-athletes to have a parent as a coach, and he appreciates the support that Philip provides, wanting to get the best out of him. Philip is constantly looking for videos to help his son improve his technique, advising him every step of the way when preparing for a meet.

“I think he trusts 100 percent on whatever I say, and if I tell him, 'You could win this,' he's going to go out and try to win it," Philip said.

Forest Park junior Spenser Wolf (39, left) kicks off for the Rangers Sept. 4 against Tell City.

Sundays are usually relaxation days for him, but Spenser's relaxation on Sundays include playing golf and swimming. He may use that day to do homework, run and hangout with friends in the evening that he cannot see during the week. He said the hardest part about doing all of this is not having any free time.

“That’s pretty much it, but who needs free time, right?” Spenser asked.

His advice to anybody who would want to do the same things he does is to manage their time well, eat healthy and get lots of sleep. He's less busy the rest of the academic year, playing only basketball during the winter, and running just track during the spring.

Spenser is hoping to compete in a sport at the next level, but he doesn't see the commitment level while partaking in a collegiate sport to be challenging for him, since he'd only be doing one sport while having to maintain his grades.

Philip told the Herald that his hopes for Spenser are to maintain his grades and to be successful in whatever he does. He added his son knows what a good work ethic gets him, and the more he succeeds, the more his teammates will feed off of that, too. Philip wants his son to keep improving and not be content with where he's at. He loves the dedication and work ethic his son shows.

"Those are two things that's really hard to find in a kid," Philip said. "I mean, it's hard finding them in just one sport, but to do all three and be dedicated to do the best you can, it's hard to find."

Spenser is motivated to be better than himself every single day, and added that other people out there are working harder than him, which incentivizes him to push himself to work harder than those people do; and he has his goals set for each of the three sports.

"Football, I think we want to just get as far as we can in sectionals, maybe to regionals, who knows from there?" Spenser said. "Soccer, we want to finally get past sectionals this year and keep our postseason run going, and in cross country, I would like to get back to state and see what I can do up there again."




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