Colt Sponseller found a small silver lining after the senior from Glenmont, Ohio, finished his college wrestling career at Ohio State.
Sponseller was named an All-American wrestler as he finished fourth in the nation at the 2011 NCAA championships at 165 pounds.
Although he earned All-American honors, Sponseller said his season did not end the way he wanted as his fourth-place finish fell short of his high expectations.
“I didn’t go there and do what I wanted to do,” he said. “I lost my final college match, and I’m never happy when I lose.”
Sponseller’s finish in the NCAA Tournament was the first time he has placed in his three years at the NCAA championships. He lost in the semifinals to the eventual national champion Jordan Burroughs from Nebraska, and in the third-place match to Wisconsin’s Andrew Howe.
“I finally got over the hump,” he said of earning his All-American honors.
Sponseller finished this season with a 25-7 record and a 105-24 record throughout his career. He said although the All-American honors make him feel good, he is not satisfied with his career because he was not able to earn a national championship.
“I’d probably say that, overall, it didn’t really go the way I wanted it to,” he said. “But it ended on a somewhat good note.”
Coach Tom Ryan said the team expected Sponseller to be an All-American and a national champion, but he was only able to achieve the former.
“People like Colt come to college with very high expectations,” Ryan said. “They’re highly motivated people, and to do well is critical.”
Ryan said although Sponseller did not win a national championship, he was always a hard worker and his losses were not for a lack of effort.
Sponseller’s wrestling eligibility has run out, but Ryan said he is bringing the senior back to help the coaching staff.
“He’s finishing his degree in business,” Ryan said. “His major is marketing, and he will be in the role as student-coach.”
Sponseller said he still has two quarters to finish and that he will try to help the younger wrestlers succeed on the mat with his strong work ethic.
“He represents everything that OSU wrestling wants to represent,” Ryan said. “He is just a great leader.”
Besides Sponseller’s All-American honors, he was named to the academic All-Big Ten list this year and is a two-time OSU Scholar Athlete. He was the runner-up in the Big Ten Championships in 2010 and 2011, losing to Howe both seasons.
Sponseller’s mom, Sue, has a distinct whistle that she uses at every match to help her son while he is wrestling.
“I have kind of a deep voice,” she said, “so whistling was always easier to get them to react.”
Sue uses different types of whistles to encourage her son to work harder or get moving.
“I can do all kinds of whistles,” she said. “I can almost break glass.”
Sue said she was very proud of her son for not only his wrestling success but his success in the classroom as well. She said his All-American honors were a welcome announcement for the Sponseller family.
“When that match was over, we were just so happy and relieved,” she said. “It just seemed that every year there was something standing in the way.”
Ryan said the team will miss Sponseller’s hard work ethic and leadership once he leaves OSU.
“It’s been a pleasure coaching him,” Ryan said. “I’m very grateful he chose to be a Buckeye.”