Most high school athletes are privileged enough to sign their national letter of intent to play one sport in college, but Jackson senior Cole Amelunke signed his NLI to play in two sports last week.
However, one would not be shocked by this after finding out what Amelunke, who signed with Westminster to continue his football and wrestling career, has accomplished these past four years as an Indian.
“It means a lot [to sign with Westminster],” Amelunke said. “It’s more or less to see if I can do this challenge — if I can do both sports and keep up my grades in school.”
On the mat, Amelunke finished his career at Jackson as a two-time Class 4 All-State finisher along with winning two individual SEMO Conference Championships. He also led the Indians to win four-straight SEMO Conference team titles, which no senior class in program history had ever accomplished.
Moving to the gridiron, Amelunke helped the football program make history as the Indians played in the Class 5 State Championship game for the first time in 24 years this past fall. Jackson also finished the last two regular seasons undefeated for the first time and won back-to-back Class 5 District 1 titles.
“[My senior year] was unbelievable,” Amelunke said. “I still lie in bed and dream of playing on Mizzou’s field for the state championship. I sit there and think about wrestling in my finals match at state. I just keep thinking of what I could’ve done better, what I did do better and how I can improve.
“I’m glad that over all this coronavirus and everything that I got to do what I wanted. I played the sports I wanted to play and finished it through my senior year even though some kids didn’t get to do that. It’s heartbreaking [for them], but I feel great for what I’ve accomplished. It’s good that I went out with a bang.”
Amelunke, who was a three-year starter on the defensive line, garnered all-state honors for the first time after recording 87 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and four sacks this season. He was also a part of a unit that did not allow an opposing offense to score more than 27 points, which was in the state title game to Carthage in a 27-21 loss.
“I had such great teammates,” Amelunke said. “When I came in as a freshman, they all brought me in like I was one of their own. From day one, they treated me like I was on varsity and told me from day one I can do it.”
Becoming an all-state athlete in multiple sports takes countless hours of work perfecting your craft on top of being a student, but it is a schedule Amelunke has adapted to well.
“You’re going from 6 a.m. to 5:30 to 6 in the evening — you’re going all day,” Amelunke said. “Then you have to go to school, and you really don’t have that much weekend time or time to study after school and practice. Then you have to go to bed, turn around and wake back up. It’s real difficult, but it’s something you have to overcome and put in your mind that you can do it.”
Anyone who has coached Amelunke will say one of the reasons why he is so successful in either sport is because of his high motor. Amelunke described himself as the type of person who does not quit until he succeeds in whatever he is trying to accomplish.
One person who helped Amelunke realize the type of offensive tackles he will be facing in college was teammate and two-time all-state left tackle junior Connor Tollison. Amelunke faced Tollison, who has verbally committed to Mizzou, numerous times in practice.
“Going against [Tollison] has definitely prepared me to see what the upper-level class kids can do,” Amelunke said. “Not everybody gets to go to college and play football — they’re there for a reason. Granted college players are going to be better than ones in high school, but we’ve played good teams, and I’ve seen some of the competition.”
The biggest difficulty between playing football and wrestling is losing or gaining weight — usually losing — right after the fall to compete in a desired weight class. Amelunke primarily wrestled at 182 in his high school career and will look to stay in the 180s, but he knows he will likely need to gain weight for football in the fall.
As a freshman, Amelunke wrestled at 195 pounds and qualified for state while finishing with an overall record of 32-17. The next year Amelunke moved down to 182, where he recorded an overall record of 39-11 and failed to qualify for state.
Amelunke remained at 182 pounds his junior campaign and only lost seven matches on top of 37 wins while placing at state (fifth) for the first time in his career. Throughout this season, Amelunke was at 182 but moved up to 195 for the postseason, where he placed fourth at state and finished 41-4 overall.
Following Amelunke’s junior year is when he decided he wanted to wrestle in college and even thought about not playing football this year in order to focus primarily on wrestling.
“I didn’t really want to play football, but I sat down with the coaches, and they all said, ‘Just go and play football — it’s your senior year,’” Amelunke said. “My dad sat down and talked to me and said, ‘You’ve always had this dream of going big and playing football at a big school and moving on to the NFL since you were five years old.
“That’s what I said everyday when I was younger playing JAYF, and he sat down there and that really hit me. He said, ‘Maybe you can play both. You’ve got the motor and abilities, so go ahead and do it.’ That’s what I decided to do.”
Anyone who has played a sport in college will tell you that is the equivalent of having a full-time job, so Amelunke will have two full-time jobs along with studying to become an engineer at Westminster. One way he is preparing for college athletics mentally and physically is by working out with former Jackson wrestling assistant coach Jerry Golden.
“He’s got me on a workout plan just getting me built back up into shape,” Ame-lunke said. “Honestly, it’s all mental. It’s whether I want to do it or not. I just have to have the mindset that I want to do it, and I’m willing to do it.”
Along with continuing to work with Golden, Amelunke has been able to play under head coaches Steve Wachter in wrestling and Brent Eckley in football at Jackson, who have both led their respective programs to multiple championships.
“All the coaches are always there in your corner, and I mean every one of them even though some days it feels like they’re not,” Amelunke said. “They’re always there to push you to be your best. They want you to be as good as you can and bring out your true ability and talent.”
Off the field and mat, Amelunke will focus on becoming an electrical engineer and will finish his degree at the University of Missouri. Amelunke is pursuing this field because he is interested in how things are powered. “It’s just something cool that I was interested in, and it stuck with me,” he said.