Brenden Spicer loves sleep.
But he loves winning more.
And that’s why the Father Judge High School senior woke up 11 times at 5 a.m. this winter, and drove from his home in Somerton to the school to work out with his teammates.
Many wrestlers and coaches attended the practices, but he was the only competitor to make every one of the optional practices that start at 6:30 a.m. and go for a little less than an hour, giving them enough time to shower before the start of class.
Nobody said wrestling was easy, and this was just another case of putting in the work.
“I wrestled (junior varsity) as a freshman, so I was new and I had a lot to learn,” Spicer said. “I did (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) before, so I had some training, but I needed to get a lot better. I knew that if I wanted to be where I wanted to be, I had to work hard. It was important to me. I really wanted to have a strong year.”
Spicer became one of the strongest wrestlers in the Catholic League, going 28-10 thus far while wrestling mostly at 170 pounds for the Crusaders.
But his biggest win was the deciding one in the Catholic League championship.
Spicer, who bumped up to 182 pounds, pinned his foe in 3:43 in the final match of the Catholic League championship as the Crusaders knocked off Archbishop Ryan 36-28. It helped Judge turn the tables on the Raiders after Ryan won the regular season matchup by 15.
Max Edwards and Sean Logue had pins for the Crusaders, while Eamonn Logue, Robert Baker and Matt Kidwell picked up major decision victories. Judge’s other win was by Danny Wildonger.
Ryan got pins from Junior Orantes, Matthew Weinberg and Jon Swift, while Ricky Horger (major decision), Nicolas Rehfuss and Dillon Shamanow also earned wins for the Raiders.
Judge went on to defeat Public League champion Central 39-27 in the District 12 championship. Because of their win, the Crusaders get a bye to Hershey, where they’ll meet Dallastown on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs.
Few expected the Crusaders, who took second place in their division and had to wrestle three times in the playoffs, to knock off the undefeated Raiders, but Spicer and his teammates went into the championship with plenty of confidence.
“We had some of our younger guys come through huge for us,” said Spicer, who watched the Crusaders win the championship when he was a freshman and helped the team win it a season ago. “Those guys did great. We knew if we turned a few of those matches, we could win. It’s not easy to do, but we worked so hard, fighting off our back in practice and that helped a lot. That’s why we won.
“We had some injuries last time, but the biggest thing is we needed to be better. We had to get better. And we did.”
Spicer has certainly lived by that motto.
Always a great athlete, he had a lot of work to do since entering the wrestling room as a freshman, when he didn’t wrestle one varsity match.
He went 23-16 as a sophomore and came on as a junior to go 35-15. This year, he sits at 28-10 with a lot of matches left to compete in.
Winning the Catholic League was a huge first step, though.
“We always want to win the league and the district championship,” Spicer said. “It was fun to beat Ryan, but it really didn’t matter who it was. It was fun to win it at Ryan, but it would have been even better here. The gym was packed, and everyone was having fun.
“But we still have a lot to do. I want to win as many matches as I can. I want to win a district title, win (regions) and then get to Hershey and see how far I can get on the podium. It’s hard, I know it’s a big goal, but that’s what I’m looking to do.”
This will likely mark the end of Spicer’s wrestling career.
He has enlisted in the Navy and leaves in July for training.
He’s not too worried about that because he’s in incredible shape from wrestling.
“I’m excited, but I’m looking forward to the rest of my senior year,” Spicer said. “I love wrestling. It’s everything to me. I love doing it with this team. We’re working on something special. Not just this year, we’ve been working every year. Even when we didn’t win (sophomore year), we work. We just put in a lot of work.
“The Navy is something that will be good for me. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, I have time to decide. I need to figure that out.”
One thing we know, he’ll put in the work and will have no trouble with the early morning wakeup calls.
“The morning practices were good, all the practices were good,” Spicer said. “This year, I drove myself, but before, my parents made sure I got here. I wanted to do it. I didn’t like getting up, but I knew if I wanted to get better, that’s what I had to do.”
Spoken like a true champion.