When Our Lady of Good Counsel High School wrestler Spencer Neff won a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship last season in the 182-pound weight class, he was treated to a gift from his parents.
The grappler, who owns a 30-4 record this winter for the top-ranked Falcons, requested to be taken to Tyson's Corner to visit the Lego Store.
“He's just a goofy kid,” Falcons coach Skylar Saar said of one of his better athletes. “He keeps in good spirits all the time and is a very upbeat kid.”
Neff recently completed the red Volkswagen T1 Camper Lego set he acquired after his big win last year and has since moved on to assembling a life-sized Lego R2-D2.
Neff, now wrestling at 195, currently holds the school record for victories (160) at Good Counsel and is in heavy pursuit of a string of postseason tournament victories, most notably a Maryland state title and a National Preps championship.
“That would be huge. To be a two-time state champ, that's pretty rare. That's definitely my goal, to do what I did last year,” Neff said.
Saar has observed Neff, who also enjoys completing crossword puzzles, reading the New York Times and watching basketball, improve steadily throughout his tenure on the team. It's an improvement that has been aided significantly by having arguably the best sparring partner in the country.
Kyle Snyder, likely the region's most dominant athlete and the top-ranked 220-pounder in the country, matches up opposite of Neff nearly every day. The two serve as captains for the Falcons, who are hoping not only for many individual titles this season, but also a state team title.
“Spencer has an amazing work ethic,” Snyder said. “He wasn't gifted with awesome athletic ability, but he works harder than everybody else in the room. He pushes everyone to be their best.”
And somehow, on two occasions last year, Neff also was able to accomplish what no other wrestler has against Snyder. He took him down. Granted this was in practice and not in an official match setting, but it was still a significant moment for all involved.
“I took him down a couple times last year, but the excitement was short-lived because he took me down right after that,” Neff said. “It's tough having him as a partner. I guess it takes a bit of a physical toll, but it really helps me. He definitely won't let me get away with any lazy moves.”
“I got taken down twice,” Snyder said in a far more serious tone. “I wasn't happy about it.”
Despite those exceptionally rare occurrences when Neff gets the better of Snyder, the pair works well together as co-captains of the experienced group.
“We have real different personalities. I like to be really vocal while Spencer leads by example for the most part,” Snyder said. “He's just a hard-working kid, a super-smart kid who does everything right on and off the mat.”
During the summer, Neff recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He wrestled with the injury last year, but decided it'd be best for his progress to have surgery before his senior season. He also didn't play football for the first time in three high school seasons, choosing instead to focus solely on wrestling.
“I feel like I'm wrestling better than I've ever wrestled. I put in a lot of work over the summer and I feel great,” Neff said.
Neff plans to attended Duke University and wrestle for the Blue Devils next season, but his involvement in the continued success of Good Counsel won't soon be forgotten.
“He's been a big part of it,” Saar said. “We're going to miss him a lot. Especially once you get down to these upper weights. It's going to be tough to replace him.”