Sam Skillings has been playing sports since the second grade. As a young, aspiring athlete, he looked up to his older, athletic peers — not unlike his current self — as role models to which he could become when he grew up.
Those experiences clearly had an effect on the sophomore, who last year as a freshman at Menomonie High School, grappled his way to a 31-2 varsity record in the 145/138 pound weight class, often beating athletes three and four years his senior.
Skillings last year won the regional tournament in the 138 pound bracket with a 9-6 decision over New Richmond’s Bryce Younger, a senior. The following week in the sectional tournament, Younger defeated Skillings in the first place match in a 9-5 decision. Skillings then took the second place match over Marshfield’s Anthony Kanable (Sr.). Skillings’ second place finish was good for a trip to Madison to compete in the State Tournament where he went 2-1 at the Kohl Center.
It was an impressive finish to his freshman season, competing at State as a freshman, beating athletes four years older than him and giving others a run for their money. And with a fresh wrestling season looming just around the corner, Skillings is no doubt excited for another opportunity to meet his own expectation of winning a State title.
Not only is Skillings an exceptional wrestler and athlete, he has also already become a strong leader for his teammates. Head wrestling coach Miah Casey calls Skillings a leader in every way.
“He leads by example,” Casey said. “He works hard, sets the pace in practice. ... He is also vocal when he needs to be and lets others know when they are doing a great job and helps them when they need help.”
He added that Skillings is also extremely ambitious, arriving at school early and staying late after practice to get in extra work outs and to wrestle with coaches to learn new techniques and hone current ones.
Son of Randy and Angie Skillings, Sam’s leadership extends outside of the high school, as an advocate for youth athletes, often attending and helping at their practices. Considering his own experience looking up to his older peers, Skillings understands first-hand how much athletes like himself can and do have an impact on younger athletes.
“The kids love him,” Casey said. “It means so much to the youth wrestlers when he comes in and helps with practice and works with individual kids.”
Skillings has also accompanied the young wrestlers to both the regional and state tournaments to provide assistance to both coaches and the athletes themselves.
“He is an outstanding person, very humble and a joy to coach,” Casey remarked.
On the football field
During the fall season, Skillings can be found on the Mustang Sophomore football team, of which he is the captain. He fills roles as a starter on both sides of the ball, on offense as a running back and on defense as a linebacker. His dedication on the football field equates to his efforts on the wrestling mat.
Head varsity football coach, Joe LaBuda said all the success Skillings has had is no accident.
“He has an incredible work ethic, especially as a freshman,” LaBuda wrote late last school year. “He is very driven had all the success he has had is a direct result of all his hard work and preparation.”
LaBuda had worked with Skillings in the weight room the summer before his freshman year at Menomonie High School and said it was evident, even then, that Skillings had extremely high goals and was willing to do what it takes and sacrifice the time required to reach those goals.
A not-so-distant future
When Skillings completes high school, he would like to continue to wrestle in college. He is not yet sure where he wants to execute that plan, but with over three years to go before graduating, Skillings will have plenty of time to make that decision.
Outside of the walls of the high school, Skillings enjoys being outdoors, hunting in his tree stand and fishing the various lakes and rivers in the area. His dream job would entail both, as a hunting guide in Alaska.
In the meantime, Skillings’ short-term goal is to go all the way to Madison and win the State wrestling tournament before he graduates. Considering his success last year, the possibility of that happening this season is very much within his grasp.