When John Sprenkle was informed a month or so ago that he was being nominated for the York Area Sports Hall of Fame, the former West York High School football, wrestling and track standout was confused.
Back in 1969, when he won his PIAA title in the heavyweight class, Sprenkle was presented the Shipley Award at a York Area Sports Night program as a standout high school athlete.
Sprenkle, who taught physical education at West York for 29 years, recalls having his picture taken with two Baseball Hall of Famers at the time. He just figured that award and the Sports Hall of Fame were one in the same.
So the man who displayed so much passion for athletics and life during his days as a teacher, enjoyed a good laugh when he surfed the Internet to find the truth.
The former Bulldog legend, who was part of a football team his junior year that only allowed seven points all season long, moved on to Virginia Tech, where he competed in wrestling and football. Despite offers to play football professionally by both the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints, Sprenkle opted to pursue what he termed as his dream job — teaching at his old school.
Since retiring as a teacher after 29 years back in 2002, Sprenkle nowadays is enjoying his free time while preparing to move to Delaware to be closer to where his two children, Abi and Matt, now reside.
Before that move, however, Sprenkle was inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame, alongside tennis standout Jim Kohr and Red Lion wrestler Brad Lloyd, at Santander Stadium before the York Revolution game on Sunday.
We caught up with Sprenkle recently for this edition of Sports Q&A.
Q: How did you find out about your nomination and selection?
A: "(Former West York High School vice principal) Pete Keeney actually called me and told me he was going to nominate me. And so he came over and started asking me questions."
Q: What were the emotions you felt when you were informed of your selection?
A: "I was extremely happy. I thought a lot about my mother and dad because I know they would have been very proud of me and I was disappointed that they wouldn't be there."
Q: Did I hear it right that you were unaware there was a York Area Sports Hall of Fame?
A: "This is crazy, but I didn't know that there was an actual York Hall of Fame, like the place on George Street. Now I have a plaque in my office with the county and the state of Pennsylvania on it for being the athlete of the year my senior year in high school (1969). So I got my picture taken with the two Cy Young award winners Bob Gibson and Denny McClain and that was at York Sports Night. So I had thought (laughs) that was the Hall of Fame. So I said, 'you know, I think I might be in there already.' (laughs). So I asked if he had a way to check and they really didn't, so I said I'd check it out. That's when I found out the York Sports Hall of Fame didn't start until 1973! (laughs)"
Q: So when did you get back to West York as a teacher?
A: "1973-74 was my first year of teaching. I coached football and wrestling and officiated track."
Q: You were always so passionate and excited when you taught phys ed at West York. How were you able to do that?
A: "For 18 years I ran 30 miles a week. I ran five miles before school started and on Saturday. Sunday was my day off. So I did that for 18 years and I loved it. I used to get up and take off running. I would solve all my problems, get my lesson plans squared away in my head and get ready to go."
Q: Is there anything in your career that really seems amazing to you now?
A: "Well, do you know Bruce Arians? He was a teammate of mine down at Virginia Tech. He went to York Catholic and then he graduated from York High. He may not be the sharpest tack in the box, but he does a fabulous job surrounding himself with good people. And he's a very successful coach because of that. But it's crazy because he was a year behind me and he played behind Don Strock, who led the nation and played 17 years in the NFL. (Strock) was our quarterback and in my class at Virginia Tech. So Bruce was always behind him and after his last year, which was the year after I was out, he came back to West York and he wanted to interview for a job as a football coach. And I told him there was no teaching position open and, you know, you had to be a teacher back then. So (Bruce) came in with a three-piece suit on, nervous, and we couldn't hire him. So if we would have had a teaching position, heck, he might not even be coaching in the NFL today! (laughs)"
Q: Who were the most influential people in your life that helped steer your athletic career on the right track?
A: "My mom and dad definitely. When I was in college they never missed a home game and then my senior year they never missed a game (home or road). They drove all over the country to see me play and that was extremely motivational."
Q: How did you manage to do both wrestling and football at Virginia Tech?
A: "Well, I only wrestled my freshman year. Now I was on a football scholarship, but one of the things and the reason that I liked Virginia Tech was that they were going to let me wrestle my freshman year. Back when I played you weren't eligible to play football as a freshman, but you were as a wrestler. So I wanted to wrestle and they allowed me to do that. And actually I was the first one (at Virginia Tech) to qualify for nationals as a freshman. But, funny enough, I couldn't go to nationals because I had spring football. So I was kind of disappointed about that, but I was there to play football and not to wrestle."
Q: Did you love football more than wrestling?
A: "That's hard to say. I liked them both at lot really. My mom and dad loved football and wrestling. So I can't say that I did like one more than the other. It was kind of cool then to be able to do them both and be successful at both. I looked forward to both (seasons) starting and, as I got older, I also looked forward to both of them ending (laughs)."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com