Wrestling to comeback on top


     After landing awkwardly on his leg, junior Brandon Batson tries to get up and walk it off. When realizing he could not, panic started to set in. His face gets hot and the world seems to be closing in. With a worried look on his face, his mind was racing a mile a minute. 

     When it comes to contact sports, the risk of injury is inevitable. With kids getting aggressive with each other and fighting for the same end goal, it is hard for players to not get hurt.

     Batson is no exception to this observation about contract sports. After getting injured in the middle of a football game this past season, it cut out most of his wrestling season.

     “I tore my meniscus in two spots during a football game because of how I planted my leg,” Batson said. “The first tear was somewhat small and the second being much longer and deeper, and I had to have surgery which prohibited me from participating in my sports for a few months.”

     With Batson being so young, if he went back any sooner than he did, it could have torn completely, ending his career. His football season came to an abrupt end and with wrestling season coming around the corner he was unsure how it would play out.

     “The first thing I thought about was ‘So what does this mean for wrestling? Will I be able to wrestle?’ and they weren’t sure at first,” Batson said.

     When this happens to any athlete, an assortment of emotions and thoughts can run through a person’s mind. For Batson an overwhelming feeling was taking over.

     “All I could think about was how as soon as I’m cleared to wrestle I need to focus, focus, focus, because we were already nearing the end of the season,” Batson said. “It was hard to wrap my head around because I’m a junior this year and next year is going to be my last year wrestling at the high school level, so it was frustrating that this all happened at the time that it did.”

     When Batson finally came back, it was not exactly the same. There was still uncertainty about how well he would perform.

     “My knee felt good and I was more excited than nervous to get out on the mat again, though it truly was a mental block because I was afraid that it would happen again, but I kept going and it ended up working out in the end,” Batson said.

     Michael Hynd, head wrestling coach, has been coaching for 15 years, eight of which have been for this school district. When he was first told of the events that occurred, all he could think about was Batson’s safety.

     “At first I wasn’t thinking about wrestling or football, I was thinking about if he was okay. Also, it was weird that the same day before they left for the game he told me that his knee was bugging him and then three hours later, he tore his meniscus,” Hynd said. “After talking with the football coaches they were saying how much he’s improved this year and how well he was doing, and it was hard to see that all kind of just stop and also seeing him improve so much in wrestling this summer, I just hoped that he could come back to show off how hard he worked.”

     Hynd, along with the other coaches, had to find different ways Batson could practice as well as cut weight in order for him to be ready for upcoming duals, tournaments and overall have a feeling for a “normal” season.

     “He would have to warm up with Shahee, so he was missing the actual mat time warm up with us and so he was already 30 minutes behind which all adds up in the end, and we couldn’t have him do sprints or other curtain exercises because the price for reward just wasn’t there,” Hynd said. “We had him do a lot of upper body movements, but when it came to the lower body we had to be careful that he wasn’t turning, cutting, or putting his knee in different positions that could actually ruin it again.”

     There is always so much on the line when an athlete goes back to their sport after being cleared from an injury. The way they practice, the way they perform and their mindset, all affects how well they do. 

     “He had to sacrifice more stamina and endurance than others did, and it made it more difficult to get him in shape quickly because he couldn’t do the normal things that we usually did,” Hynd said. “That kid has so much drive in him and he knew that the only way in a sense to ‘make up’ for this setback was to place at state.”

     Hynd speaks highly of Batson and all of the work he put into this season, despite it being cut short. With everything that he has accomplished, he came back with a desire to place in the state tournament.

     “I felt like this year was a good year to get a feel of the podium and the competition at such a high level, because last year I was a state qualifier going 1-2, so I didn’t place,” Batson said. “With everything I came back with confidence that I was going to make it to the state podium, because I knew if I didn’t then I wouldn’t get much out of the season like I wanted to.”

     Compared to last year and this year, Batson has accomplished some of the same achievements. The one stand-out success he had this season was that he placed eighth at the state tournament, while last year he was a state qualifier and did not end up on the podium. 

     “He came back knowing what he wanted to do by the end of the season and when it came down to it he wrestled smart when we were in Columbus,” Hynd said. “He had to get that monkey off of his back [knee injury] and he knew what he wanted out of this season despite how it started.”

He came back knowing what he wanted to do by the end of the season and when it came down to it he wrestled smart when we were in Columbus. He had to get that monkey off of his back [knee injury] and he knew what he wanted out of this season despite how it started.

— Michael Hynd

     With thoughts of Batson’s senior year in mind, Batson and Hynd both have similar goals.

     “I want to have an undefeated season and place higher at states, higher than eighth,” Batson said. “Hynd believes I can be at the top, and that’s where I want to be.”

     Batson has been wrestling since he was seven. He has been through difficult situations when it came to wrestling, but none necessarily happened at the worst time possible.

     “I’ve been wrestling for such a long time and it’s just helped me become the calm person I am today,” Batson said. “It’s an outlet for me and it means so much to be able to compete at this level.”

     When his name gets called and he walks up to the eighth place spot on the podium, he feels a sense of relief. He thinks to himself, ‘Finally, I’ve done it and this is the feeling I’ve been chasing my whole wrestling career’. Although knowing he could have done better, he soaks up the applause and the cheers from the arena, hearing his family, coaches and teammates from far away.

     With all the adversity Batson faced this season, he has overcome the mental block that was once there when he first was cleared. He performed well at the state tournament with the little amount of mat time he had and came back with the state podium in his eyes.