With the first throw of his collegiate career, freshman Sam Mattis broke the 19-year-old school record in the discus throw. That alone is incredible.
But what’s even more incredible is Mattis thinks that throw — 189 feet, two inches — wasn’t close to his best.
“I didn’t expect it to go that far. It definitely kind of just took off on me,” he said. “It wasn’t my best throw of the season either, I think I’ve fouled some of my best throws. That was a decent one and I think there’s a lot more to come.”
Women’s head coach Tony Tenisci — who also oversees the throwers — also sees the vast potential Mattis still has to reach, believing Mattis is one of the most unique talents he has seen in his 27 years at Penn.
“This is just the beginning of his career,” Tenisci said. “If everything goes well — he stays healthy, he focuses on what he needs to do — he will have a very bright future and his records will stand for a long, long time. You won’t get many freshmen like this.”
Robin Martin, the men’s head coach, also spoke to just how special Mattis is.
“He’s the number five thrower in high school history. So he’s not just a talent, he’s one of the best throwers to come out of the United States in the last 25 years,” Martin said.
Both Martin and Tenisci focused on Mattis’ all-around extraordinary athleticism, a trait most throwers do not possess.
“He’s just a natural athlete. He’s a complete athlete,” Tenisci said. “He can run very fast, his vertical jumps are off the charts, he’s very naturally strong and he has a very good mind for technique.
“So when you get all those combinations, there’s not much he can’t do.”
Mattis is no stranger to the Penn Relays. He was runner-up as a junior in 2011 and finally won the high school boys’ discus throw last year.
“That was probably the most satisfying feeling after a meet I’ve ever had,” Mattis said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier after a meet.”
This year, though, the New Jersey native will compete on familiar territory.
“Just being back at it and throwing off my home turf. That’s a new feeling,” Mattis said. “In high school, we had dual meets at my hometown, but nothing this big where you can really call a circle your own and hundreds of people are watching you throw.”
With the 119th edition of the Relays approaching, Mattis is realistic about his goals as he moves up to the college ranks.
“It’s going to be the best competition I’ve ever been a part of, by far,” Mattis said. “It’s going to take a really big personal best to even get on the podium at all. I’m just looking to do my best and wherever that lands in the competition I’ll be happy as long as it’s my absolute best.”
His throwing coach is also cautious about expecting too much from Mattis this weekend, especially since it is still relatively early in his season. Mattis likely will compete at the Heptagonal Championships, IC4A Championships and NCAA Regional Championships, as well as Junior Nationals in the summer.
“I don’t want to put any more expectations on him than necessary, but I’m hoping that he will be very competitive in the group,” Tenisci said. “I would like him to introduce himself to the rest of the discus world. That would make me very happy.”
As for the rest of the season, Mattis is hoping that with some warmer weather and all the hard work he is putting in during practice, he can improve on his school record.
“I just want to push myself to the absolute limit and see how far I can throw,” he said.
If Mattis broke the record on a throw he didn’t even expect to go far, only time will tell what mark he can obtain when pushed to his limit.
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