This Hits Different, Episode 79: Wrestler overcomes serious concussion, wins WPIAL

Shelby Cassesse tells the story of Pine-Richland wrestler Vaughn Spencer

In today’s episode of This Hits Different, Shelby Cassesse tells the story of Pine-Richland wrestler Vaughn Spencer, who persevered through multiple concussions to reach the top of the WPIAL.

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When Pine-Richland sophomore Vaughn Spencer looks back at pictures from last year, it's a reminder of how far he's come.

“Seeing my memories, one year ago today, and not even recognizing that kid, says Spencer. “My freshman years, myself, unrecognizable.”

At the time, he was recovering from a torn meniscus and labrum. Both injuries happened during a football game his freshman season, keeping him from his true passion: wrestling.

Though he says the physical aspect of recovery was tough, the mental hurdles were unexpected.

“It’s tough being lie that, I kind of lost myself during that period of time,” he says. “I was very hopeless, didn’t know what the future was holding for me. I was definitely in a deep spot.”

When football season rolled around again, Vaughn was anxious to get back in shape and back into sports.
But, it was just the start of his injury troubles.

He suffered his first ever concussion during a game, sidelining him for two weeks.

“I was at the one doctor, two weeks, and he was ‘alright, you’re good to go,’” Spencer explains. “I was like, ‘I don’t feel right.’ And he was like, ‘trust me, if you weren’t good, I wouldn’t let you back.’ I trusted him.”

His next game back, he suffered a second, more serious concussion.

“I was probably a vegetable for a good week or two weeks,” he says. “I don’t remember anything in that period of time.”

Once again, wrestling was put on hold. He was finally cleared in January, after well over a year away from the mat.

He knew just who he wanted to face in his first match. His head coach.

“I don’t think, leading up to this, we really knew what to expect,” Pine-Richland coach Caleb Kolb says. “But the first time I wrestled him, I got off the mat and was like… ‘he’s going to be just fine.’”

Kolb may not have been prepared for such a tough go-around, but he knew it meant Vaughn wasn't all that far from the kid who brought multiple middle school state titles and lofty expectations to Pine-Richland.

“Vaughn is just a perfect example of putting in the time, even when he can’t physically be at practice,” Kolb says. “Studying wrestling, understanding wrestling, getting better.”

Though few expected an undefeated streak all the way to a WPIAL title. Unfortunately, he was forced to withdraw from the PIAA's with a knee injury, but it doesn't take away from one of the more impressive and inspiring comebacks in local sports this year.

“It was tough, but I trudged through it,” Vaughn says. “18 months. Wrestling is my life. It’s what I love to do. Taking it from me for that long was definitely tough. But it feels great to be back.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Vaughn Spencer