Nipomo High football head coach Tony Dodge paid linebacker Terry Wambolt perhaps the highest compliment any father can give.
“He’s the kind of guy you want your daughter to date,” Dodge said following Nipomo’s season-ending 35-14 loss to Linfield Christian in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
It’s easy to see why. It seems Wambolt excels no matter what he does.
He has a good chance to be Nipomo’s valedictorian when the year is over, and currently holds a GPA of 4.7. At his middle linebacker spot, the undersized Wamblot led the Titans in total tackles, averaging about 12 per game. And his humble personality makes him as likeable as anyone you will meet.
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“Words can’t explain what a kid like Terry means to me and the team,” Dodge said. “He’s an unbelievable leader, and he has unbelievable character.”
Nicknamed “Rooster” after his hard-hitting style last season chipped away the paint from his helmet and revealed a bright red splotch of paint underneath, Wambolt led Nipomo past most expectations. After losing to Mission Prep 24-7, a loss that cost the Titans a chance to repeat as Northern League champs, Nipomo won three in a row — including wins in the second and third rounds of the playoffs.
“We like being the underdog,” Wambolt said. “We decided we wanted to shock (Linfield Christian) and we didn’t want to listen to the negativity of any one else. We got as far as we could. We are a group of brothers who have been playing together since fourth grade … and it hurts.”
Despite the loss Friday night, Wambolt almost ended a high school football career — that includes last season’s CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division championship and a spot on the All-County first team — with a bang.
As Linfield Christian tried to throw for another touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Wambolt jumped the route for his first interception of the season. But during his sprint to the endzone, he tripped over his own feet.
“I get excited,” Wambolt said with his signature soft smile. “That happened last year too against Santa Ynez. I picked it off, then I tripped.”
“Typical that last play,” Dodge said. “He picks the ball off, takes off and runs too fast for his own good. I feel bad for him. There’s nothing more that he wanted than to get a touchdown.”
When the game was over, Wambolt was emotional about the loss as he took photos with his teammates on the field. But with the season over, he will have more time to relax and focus on the next phase of his life.
“I have to take the ACTs and get ready for college,” Wambolt said. “I have to get my applications in tomorrow night.”
Wambolt’s first choice for college is Stanford but he is also applying to a few of the UC schools and Cal Poly.
No matter his next stop, Nipomo football will never be far from his heart.
“I’m staying in-state, so hopefully I will be around for next year’s team,” Wambolt said. “They are good guys.”
Each one would probably say the same thing about him.