There are a few things that come to mind when thinking about Creston’s Sam Chapman.
Some may think of his prowess on the football field, being a vocal leader on both sides of the football. Some also think of his brute strength and skill on the wrestling mat, skills which earned him a mainstay spot in a talented and storied Creston/O-M wrestling program.
The culmination of those skills earned him the 2020 Male Most Outstanding Athlete award from Creston High School Thursday evening, marking the fifth consecutive year a Creston/O-M wrestling product has taken home the award.
Chapman, a wrestler and football player who underwent serious growth through his career, didn’t even realize he had won it right away.
“I didn’t even know I got it until my mom texted me because I’ve been working,” said Chapman. “It felt pretty good to know that I got that award and I made that big of an impact on people. I’m grateful to be chosen for it.”
Looking at the roughly 195-pound Chapman today, it wouldn’t even cross your mind he was once a below .500 wrestler. Four years ago, before dedicating himself to the weight room and to the craft, Chapman was raw and ready to grow.
And boy, did he ever.
“I think it kind of speaks for itself, him growing a lot as a wrestler,” said Creston/O-M wrestling head coach Cody Downing. “A 20-32 record as a freshman versus the wrestler he is today (is growth). Voted a team captain, and voted our best teammate at our awards banquet also. I think he’s made tremendous strides over the years.”
Chapman wasn’t quite sold on the prospect of wrestling his freshman season, as Downing and assistant coach Chris Loudon beat up on him in practice.
“Freshman year, I wasn’t completely bought in. I liked wrestling, but it sucked a lot,” said Chapman. “You can ask coach Downing and Loudon, they used to beat the crap out of me freshman and sophomore year. ... It was basically Chris and Cody that got me to where I am.”
The rise through the ranks for Chapman wasn’t an easy one, but in the back half of his wrestling career, Chapman turned into a staple in the upper weights for Creston/O-M wrestling. In his final season, he suited up as a 195-pound grappler as he often went back-to-back in the lineup with good friend Jackson Kinsella.
Becoming a key part in Creston/O-M’s wrestling lineup was not given, and was earned through dedication in the weight room. His dedication was infectious and helped roll over into other upper weight wrestlers.
“He never misses a summer weight workout. Never misses a spring workout,” said Downing. “We really had three guys, over the course of a season the last few years, really set the tone in the weight room. ... Really, Sam Chapman, Andy Weis and Jackson Kinsella really led in the weight room. It’s good to have those guys around your weight class push you. I really think Kinsella and Weis owe Chapman, owe him a lot for their growth.”
The hard work paid off this winter for Chapman, as he earned his first trip to the Traditional State Wrestling meet this season. Chapman ultimately fell in consolation in a match where he dislocated his elbow, knocking him out of the tournament due to injury, but guaranteed him a medal.
A sixth-place finish at state after falling one matchshort in districts a year prior was a victory for Chapman, capping off a career arc Downing had watched go from the lows to the highs.
“Sam last year lost the match to go to state, and had to sit and watch,” said Downing. “He probably deserved to go to state last year, but we had to kind of find a way to conquer some anxiety and the pressure matches. ... He had a tough draw and was able to place, but if it weren’t for the injury he may end up fourth. Still a good tournament, good season.”
Looking back at his time with Panther wrestling, his head coach remembers how he bought into the program from early on, went through the worst of it and came out an athlete that younger teammates would look up to – much like the elders of the team in his freshman season.
“He was coachable and bought into what we’re doing. He didn’t have his own way of doing things and listened to his coaches, pushed his teammates,” said Downing. “That’s the type of person you look for. ... He came in and was on that last team that went to state duals a few years ago and had a good group of guys as a freshman to help watch him. Now he’s that guy, and I hope some younger guys watched him prepare so we can get back there.”
Chapman capped off his senior season 56-14, tallying 40 pins and a state placing medal.
A staple on the gridiron
In the fall, Chapman’s talents came to light every Friday night in Creston/O-M Panthers football uniform.
The two-way player (offensive tackle and defensive end) was a vocal leader and captain for the Panthers and was an important part of the team’s day-to-day functions from the first week of the preseason to the final snap of the regular season.
It was dedication to the craft every day, and a willingness to get better, that helped make Creston/O-M football competitive while he was on the field.
“If you look at his progress, he’s a pretty dang good football player,” said Creston/O-M football head coach Brian Morrison. “There’s no doubt. He was an all-district player, team captain, leader for us and really, kept us in the games. He was one of those offense and defense players and played at a high level. ... The guys he matched up against, especially on the offensive line, it was Div. 1 players. He fought, and I’m extremely proud of that.”
“It feels pretty good to know I played that role,” said Chapman in response to Morrison’s comment. “I just went out there and I played as hard as I could. There was no reason to slack during a game. Even if we were down, I was out there to play football and I was out there to play at the best of my ability.”
On top of the growth was the willingness to help his younger teammates. With a large roster like football, and younger players often not getting to work with older and more experienced upperclassmen, Chapman was there to lend a helping hand.
“A lot of the younger kids, I tried to encourage them,” said Chapman. “... I tried to encourage them if they worked and missed one (work out), I’d be like ‘hey you missed one, that can make a difference in your season if you’re a starter or if you play the bench. That’s normally what does make the difference, the weight room, and how hard you work and if you go in and go through the motions, you’re not going to get any better.”
In Chapman’s senior year he tallied 21.5 tackles, seven of which were solo and 1.5 of which were for a loss. He also had one fumble recovery and half a sack.
“He just shows up and he works hard and, especially over the last few years, he’s one of those kids who is super coachable,” said Morrison. “... And he did a great job at that. He’s not the one to say he’s the best. He put that time in. ... I know he worked through (Casey) Tanner’s weight program.”
Working hard off the field in the weight room also played into the success of the team. Chapman, regarded as one of the toughest and strongest athletes across Creston’s athletic programs, was well versed in doing what it took in the weight room and surrounded himself with the people he needed to succeed.
That work ethic is one Morrison hopes younger players took notice of over the last two seasons.
“He wants to be the best he can be, so he has weight partners who have that same mindset and those young kids see it,” said Morrison. “He doesn’t talk much. He’s a quiet leader. ... He’s the type where kids see his work ethic in the weight room and what it can do for you.”
And it was with that work ethic, comes results, added Morrison.
“He’s the perfect example of doing the right thing in the weight room, being coachable, (because) good things happen,” said Morrison. “He’s one of those kids where we didn’t expect a ton (early in his career). His junior year he blew up, became a really good player for us, and became a leader senior year.”
Like many experienced athletes, the skills and lessons learned through sports will translate later on in life. Downing feels the adversity he faced and progressions to be the best he can be will help him in whichever workforce he chooses.
“I think the guys that go through our program are better in the workforce, better in whatever they choose as a vocation down the road,” said Downing. “... Sam, I think, has a few different things he’s looked at. I have no doubt, with everything he’s been through as far as wrestling goes, he’s going to be a great member of any workforce or profession that he pursues.”
Chapman, instead of pursuing athletics after school, is going to take the agricultural route. He will start school at Des Moines Area Community College soon to pursue an associates in Agronomy.
The decision to hang it up comes completely on his own accord due to the wear and tear of two rigorous sports. Chapman, who broke his leg twice before hitting high school, felt it was time.
“Wrestling kind of takes a toll, football takes a toll on your body and I’d like to be able to walk when I’m 60,” said Chapman. “I’ve already had a bad history of breaking bones and stuff going wrong, and I just decided against it.”
Going forward with no regrets, Chapman feels the lessons learned and the toughness he gained over the years will translate to the workforce well.
“I think it’s going to help with hard work and dedication,” said Chapman. “Wrestling season, that’s six months of a grind. If you can grind through that, I don’t think there’s anything you couldn’t grind through.”
Creston Community High School Outstanding Male Athlete Award winners:
1977-78 — Doug Lang
1978-79 — Kean Richard
1979-80 — Mark Evans
1980-81 — Todd Barkalow, Todd Nielsen
1981-82 — Brad Laird, Brad Olson
1982-83 — Roger Baker
1983-84 — Mike Lamb
1984-85 — Joel Christy
1985-86 — Casey Bryant
1986-87 — Matt Somers
1987-88 — Tim Somers
1988-89 — Mike Linch, Brian Monday
1989-90 — Scott Driskell, Dennis Shaw
1990-91 — Ryan Woods
1991-92 — Kurt Belger, Jason Kinsella
1992-93 — Jed Gammell, B.J. Hellyer
1993-94 — Cory Latham, Rick Van Pelt
1994-95 — Brian Gerleman, Ethan Owens
1995-96 — Will Carroll, Dustin Spainhower
1996-97 — Ben Gerleman, Kyle McCann
1997-98 — Mike Mansour, Conor Reed
1998-99 — Brian Bucklin, Cory Gerleman
1999-00 — Tyler Hanson, Adam Travis
2000-01 — Neil Lang
2001-02 — Matt Buck, Jason Hyde
2002-03 — Gabe Stofferahn
2003-04 — Michael Buck, Ryan Steinkamp
2004-05 — Jim Ide
2005-06 — Trevor Conner, G.G. Harris, Dane Wardenburg
2006-07 — Keith Peterson, Scott Vicker
2007-08 — Kalab Evans
2008-09 — Clay Daggett
2009-10 — Kevin Irr, Seth Pals
2010-11 — Luke Eblen
2011-12 — Collin Bevins
2012-13 — Briar Evans, Keaton Hulett, Luke Neitzel
2013-14 — Trevor Frain, Brandon Phipps
2014-15 — Jay Wolfe
2015-16 — Seth Maitlen
2016-17 — Chase Shiltz
2017-18 — Mitchel Swank
2018-19 — Beau Barncastle
2019-20 — Sam Chapman