Like most AP Calculus students, J.P. Utz gets frustrated from time to time. But the Madison County senior says he gets to work out those frustrations on the wrestling mat or the football field.
"It's just a way to kind of vent, you know, you go to Calculus class and it kind of frustrates you, and I just like hitting people," he says.
Utz has earned all-district honors as a linebacker three times, and twice as an offensive lineman. As a senior, he was named an all-region honorable mention. Utz is also a starter on Madison's baseball team, and joined the wrestling team as a junior.
"It definitely improved my mobility and tackling in football. It improved my endurance too, because after you go through a wrestling practice there ain't really nothing else that really can compare to that."
In his first season, Utz won a district title at 215 pounds and made it all the way to the state tournament.
"There's not a lot of kids that qualify for the state tournament in their first year of wrestling," said Madison wrestling coach Mike Sacra.
He says Utz was able to accomplish that feat in such a short time thanks to a number of character traits that he possesses. "I think that's probably one of those characteristics of one, being able to balance a load, two, don't like to lose mentality, and three, I'm going to work at whatever I need to work at to get the job done."
Utz brings the same hard working mentality and determination to the classroom. This semester he's taking three college-level courses plus an engineering class.
"I don't really have much time to do anything else, I just go from one thing to the next," said Utz, who is in the top 20-percent of his class. "I go home after wrestling and just work on my homework, and go to bed. That's it. I just realize that I need to get into a good school, and I want to play sports at the next level too, so I need to do the same thing."
"We talk about our academic load during practice, and you can use him as an example," Sacra says of his senior leader. "Then those kids say, you know, 'if he can do it, we can do it as well.'"
Though Utz has a packed schedule between academics and athletics, he has found time over the years to work with a number of different mentoring and community service programs at Madison. His coach calls him a natural leader.
"Usually if he speaks to one they tend to follow. If he says 'pick it up,' they usually pick it up. He doesn't speak often but when he speaks they usually tend to listen quickly."
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