(left to right) Simley football players Jake Short and Nick Wanzek were photographed at practice on 8/14/12. They are state champions, highly decorated wrestlers who are headed to the Gophers in 2013. They reportedly asked Gophers coach Robinson if they
Simley is hoping two of its best wrestlers can perform another reversal, but this time on its football program.
Whether running back Jake Short and quarterback Nick Wanzek can translate the wrestling program's prowess -- five consecutive team state titles -- to their less successful fall sports team starts with two facts:
They love football.
They hate to lose.
"It's tough. You just have to fight through it," Wanzek said of the football team's performance in recent years. "We know what it takes to win. We try and share that with the other guys."
To go with the wrestling team titles, Short and Wanzek hold an impressive five individual state titles between them. But when it comes to football, Simley hasn't shown the same success. The Spartans believe that's changing, partly because of the leadership and ability of these two seniors.
Another factor in this culture change is coach Rex King, who is entering his second year at the helm. Simley football had previously been a revolving door for coaches, but that instability appears to have been dismissed for now.
"We've been just bouncing off coaches so it's hard to really get a team going," Short said. "Coach King is all about us. He's all about the guys. I think coach King's the best thing that could happen for our program, honestly."
For the first time, the Spartans have a year of the coach's offensive and defensive systems in place, so they are already well ahead of recent seasons in terms of preparedness and familiarity.
The offense, which transitioned from more of a passing style to a run-heavy triple option under King, will rely heavily on Wanzek and Short. Wanzek, who considers himself more of a running quarterback, will be taking the snaps again.
"He's the guy you want to be the leader in the huddle," Short said. "Everybody looks up to him."
Short will tag-team rushing duties with his longtime buddy.
"Jake is such a threat," Wanzek said. "Every single team we play, their defense needs to prepare for him. He's fast, he's shifty, he's hard to bring down. He's just a tough player."
So good that King had even sent film to Division I college football schools. If they weren't such elite wrestlers, King believes they could have had futures in college football.
Wanzek and Short made other news last month after committing to wrestle for the University of Minnesota. With a full year of high school remaining, including a season in football pads, the injury risk can make coaches want their athletes to quit their other sports.
That wasn't an option for Short and Wanzek.
"There was no question in my mind," Short said. "I was going to play football no matter what, even if coaches didn't want me to."
"Never crossed my mind," Wanzek echoed. "Most of my teammates I've been playing with my whole life. I didn't want to quit on them."
Wisconsin didn't want Short to play football. Gophers coaches encouraged it, and even told the pair that they would come to a couple of games this fall. They will see some talented football players and leaders helping rejuvenate a program.
"We need to help these guys get this program where it needs to be," Short said. "It has the potential. They need the right guys to step up and get it there. With this team this year, I think we're going to do some damage and show people what Simley football should be."