Liberty High School junior is a triple-threat athlete

May 6, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

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Hamilton Noel, Liberty High School junior has the top position on Enumclaw’s Josh Musick early in their 152-pound state 3A championship match Feb. 19 at the Tacoma Dome. By Sebastian Moraga

For as long as he can remember, Liberty High School wrestler Hamilton Noel has learned from the best. His father, Wright Noel, was a state championship high school wrestler and an NCAA First-Team All-American wrestler at Brigham Young University.

With the lessons learned from his father — and his own strength and determination — Hamilton Noel took second place in his weight class at the state wrestling championships for the past two years.

Building on the foundation of wrestling, Hamilton — now a high school junior — has become a dangerous football player and a dominating track-and-field athlete.

“It’s a competitive-natured sport, and if you bring that to other sports, it helps,” Hamilton said about wrestling.

He said that applies both mentally and physically, and the physical core strength gained in wrestling provides a solid physical foundation for other sports.

His supreme drive has earned him widespread respect at Liberty.

“He’s very highly respected by players, teachers and coaches,” Liberty football coach Steve Valach said. “You’d have to stretch a long way to find somebody who would have something bad to say about Hamilton.”


A record that speaks for itself

Hamilton Noel first began wrestling with his brothers at home before joining his middle school wrestling team. He was on the track-and-field team throughout middle school, and joined the football team in eighth grade, thanks to encouragement from his friends.

When he started high school, he went straight to the varsity wrestling squad, taking to the 135-pound weight class. He finished the season with a 25-9 record, advancing to the Mat Classic state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. He won his first match in the tournament 14-1, but he lost his second match in triple overtime and his third by just four points, which ended his championship run.

With just one more win, he would have placed in the top eight in the state.

By his sophomore year, Hamilton had moved to the 145-pound weight class, improving his record to 30-5 and again advancing to the state tournament, and falling just six points short of a championship. He further improved his record to 33-2 his junior year, advancing to the championship match again but failing to win by four points.

Hamilton also competed in this year’s National High School Coaches Association High School Wrestling Nationals Championship in Virginia from March 29 to April 3. Noel wrestled in five matches, boasting a 3-2 record against the county’s strongest. He fell just short of placing.

Early in his high school career, Hamilton worked his way through the football program, advancing to the varsity team his junior year, getting considerable playing time as a fullback, outside linebacker and safety.

“It’s a great team sport. I really like the coaches,” he said about Liberty’s football program. “Games are obviously super fun.”

In his junior season, Noel had 69 carries for 616 yards — an average of 8.9 yards per carry. His longest run was 77 yards, and he recorded six touchdowns. Defensively, he racked up 44 tackles — the second-most on the team — and a team-leading four interceptions.

Valach said Hamilton is a quiet leader, although one with tremendous heart.

“The best thing about Hamilton is he leads by example,” Valach said. “He’s not only tough and determined, he’s really talented. He’s a guy that lets his plays speak for him.”

Hamilton took his freshman year off from track and field, and when he joined the team his sophomore year, he finished ninth in state in the pole vault with a 12-foot 6-inch leap. He also ran in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints.

This year, he dropped the individual sprints to join the team’s 4×400 relay team with Joshua Gordon, Hiron Redmon and Devin Bennett. The team runs the event in 3 minutes, 32.5 seconds — the third-fastest time in the state.

“He’s like a cannonball. He’s just solid,” Liberty track-and-field coach Mike Smith said. “Hamilton, not even training with the runners, blasts one of the fastest 400s on the team.”

Smith said the team also had to buy new, stronger poles to accommodate Hamilton’s ever-increasing strength.

“He’s just gotten so strong that we didn’t have anything that he could use,” he said.


A family affair

Wright and Hamilton Noel are not the only ones in the family who know how to wrestle. Hamilton’s brothers — Wright Jr., 19, and Romney, 14 — also began wrestling informally at home before joining teams in middle school.

“It started as young boys just rolling around on the carpet,” said Wright Noel, an assistant coach for the Liberty wrestling team. “With three young boys, there’s a lot of rolling around on the carpet.”

As the boys grew older, Wright began joining in on the wrestling, which he said now takes place whenever somebody wants somebody else to move out of the way.

Hamilton agreed.

“It’s pretty much always a wrestling match around the house,” he said.

However, Wright Noel has an advantage of 35 pounds and more than 20 years of experience.

“Hamilton is very gifted. The sport is natural for him, but I’ve been doing it a lot longer,” Wright Noel said with a laugh. “I have a lot of tricks.”

When Hamilton reached high school, he spent two years wrestling alongside his older brother. Wright Jr. qualified for the state tournament while at Liberty, but he never placed in the top eight.

At first, Wright Noel said there used to be tension between the boys when one would do better than the other, but the relationship has since matured.

“Now I think Wright is Hamilton’s biggest fan,” Wright Noel said about his sons. “One of the reasons Hamilton is as good as he is is because of his brother. He wanted to keep up with his brother.”

Wright continues to coach on the Liberty team, but he said he will always be a father first and coach second, and he tries to not bring his coaching duties home with him at night.

A big senior year ahead

On the football team this fall, Hamilton may take the role of the team’s leading rusher, since running back Chandler Jenkins will graduate in June.

“Certainly when we talk about running the football, he’ll be the backfield,” Valach said.

However, Valach said Hamilton will continue to be a key defensive and special teams player as well. Defensively, he will continue to drop back as a safety on coverage plays and creep up as a linebacker on four-linebacker formations.

“He’s the kind of guy when you think, ‘If we have 11 Hamilton Noels out there, who’s going to beat us?’” Valach said. “Wrestlers are so dog garn tough that they can do pretty much anything.”

On the mat, Hamilton said he hopes to win a state championship, and Liberty wrestling coach Manny Brown will be there to help get there.

“He’s determined. He loves the sport,” Brown said. “He’s just an athlete no matter what he does, and he wants to be the best at it.”

Brown said he will need to seek tough competition for Hamilton next year.

“Every time I’ve got to schedule something, I’ve got to think kind of in 3-D,” he said. “I can take the team here, but I’ve got to send Hamilton there.”

He said he hopes to give Hamilton enough competition next year that he has at least one loss during the season.

“Not that I want him to lose, but I want him to be able to challenge himself,” Brown said. “It really helps mentally. You’re not going to win every match, not going to win every point. It preps you mentally to know how far your body can go.”

He said Hamilton Noel will be the team captain next year, as he was in the 2010-2011 season.

“He’s just a natural athlete,” Brown said. “You don’t run into those every day.”

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