SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- At Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, academics and athletics mean a lot to the student body. For student-athletes, it is important to prioritize excellence in the classroom before sports in order to ensure an opportunity to continue that sport in college.

Two seniors, swimmer Rachel Maizes and wrestler Sam Wustefeld, have demonstrated this to perfection. Both will be attending Ivy League schools for college and will be continuing their sports.

Maizes decided to go to the University of Pennsylvania for her next four years, while Wustefeld decided Columbia University was the best fit for him. Both are very excited for their upcoming senior seasons and their future careers in college.

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“For the upcoming senior season, I hope for our relays to be as successful as possible,” Maizes said. ”We hope to win counties, and make it to sectionals, states, and for our team to be dedicated and spirited. We just want to work hard and to do our best.”

Wustefeld’s goals are similar to Maizes’. He wants the season to be a great one for himself and the team.

“For this wrestling season, the goal is simple and that's to be the best. Winning the state title would be a great way to cap off my high school career,” Wustefeld said.  “ Also I hope to be the first state champion Scotch Plains has seen in over half a century and I'm excited to chase history for our school. It's going to be an outstanding season and I plan to challenge all my teammates to hopefully raise the intensity of the room.”

On top of having a successful final season at SPFHS, they plan to carry over that success to their freshman year of college and are excited about it.

“As a freshman, I am hoping to contribute to the team by being on relays and hopefully attending and placing at the Ivy League championships.” Maizes said. “One goal is to hopefully break a school record at UPenn next year. I’m also excited to get to know the team, and train in a different atmosphere with new teammates and coaches.”

Maizes has been swimming on the varsity team since her freshman year so she is prepared to lead the team as a freshman in college.

“As a freshman, I hope to get in the lineup and start my college career early to help speed up the process of adapting to college-style wrestling,” Wustefeld said. “The competition is always strong but I'm extremely excited to compete against division one talents every day.”

They felt they’d accomplish these goals easier at the schools they chose, which is why both of their decisions were easy ones.  

“I chose Penn because of its location and size,” Maizes explained. “Also for its rigorous academics in the areas I want to study and a sense of wholeness and community on campus. On top of that, my dad went there as well so that was a factor in my decision.”

Wustefeld considered other schools, but ultimately chose Columbia University because of its academics, location, and coaching staff.

“I chose Columbia for its outstanding academics, awesome wrestling facilities, close proximity to Scotch Plains, awesome coaching staff, history, beautiful campus and the available opportunity for fun and career choices New York City has to offer,” Wustefeld said. 

Though it’ll be difficult to balance academics and athletics, Maizes and Wustefeld both have their own plans to succeed.

“To maintain good grades and to do well swimming at Penn I’m getting ready to stay on top of and ahead of my work,” Maizes said. “I’m going to collaborate with my teammates and other students to ensure we all succeed. I’m going to put in maximum effort both in and out of the pool, and be open to asking for help if it would be of aid either in the pool or the classroom. I’m getting excited to train, swim fast and study hard.”

Similarly, Wustefeld believes tutoring and hard work inside and outside the classroom will help him succeed the most at Columbia.

“I don't plan to hesitate to pursue tutors and extra help as needed.” Wustefeld said. “I will do anything I feel is necessary to maintain strong grades on top of pushing myself in wrestling. I have a lot of goals for college, both academically and athletically and I'm ecstatic to have such an amazing place to pursue those goals at Columbia University.”

Maizes and Wustefeld have set great examples of what a successful student-athlete truly looks like and they plan to continue their success in both academics and athletics in college.

Editor's Note: Rachel Maizes' twin sister, DeeDee, a student at the Academy for Allied Health, is also Ivy-bound (Cornell). As a VoTech student, she swims competitively for SPFHS.

This article originally appeared in The Fanscotian, the student publication of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.