Harty: Granard begins recovery
Three of the Colorado Mesa University teammates he joined at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships were back at nationals Friday and Saturday.
Chester Granard, however, had to stay home.
And that’s a bloody shame.
Yes, this involves blood, or more accurately, what hasn’t been in the junior 165-pounder’s blood: enough iron and hemoglobin.
Granard, who qualified for nationals in his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, hadn’t been himself in some time when he went to a mid-January tournament.
“I was dying in my matches all through the season,” Granard said. “I would start cutting weight, and I would get light-headed and felt like I was going to faint in my matches.”
Granard and Mavericks coach Chuck Pipher figured out something must be really wrong after Granard, who was 12-3 entering the Midwest Duals in Kearney, Neb., went 1-3.
That was Jan. 19. He didn’t wrestle another match this season, because during a practice soon after, Granard said he was “kind of blacking out. I couldn’t really see, and I kind of walked up to the coach, I was having tunnel vision, and I told him, ‘I think I might faint.’ “
That’s when Pipher told Granard it was time to see a doctor and have blood tests done.
Granard said the tests revealed he had ulcerative colitis, causing him to be anemic. He was iron-deficient and had a disturbingly low hemoglobin count.
Granard couldn’t recite the exact medical terminology when he explained his hemoglobin count, but he said his number was 9.5, and the minimum line for an average man should be at least 13.5, and higher yet for an athlete.
With his ailment diagnosed, he could begin healing. The only problem with that was it required rest, a lot of it. That meant no wrestling, no practice to help build up his strength and endurance.
“After we got the results back … I was expecting to get back on the mat,” Granard said. “It turns out my body is taking longer to heal than I thought it would.”
He wasn’t even close to ready for the regional tournament two weeks ago, which meant no qualifying for this past weekend’s nationals.
“It’s really frustrating,” Granard said. “I wrestle all season for those two tournaments: regionals and nationals.”
Colorado Mesa senior Nick Petersen, who joined Granard as a Division II All-American last season and earned a return trip this season, said he feels bad Granard’s plight cost him his postseason.
“It definitely is a bummer, heartbreaking,” Petersen said. “I know what it’s like getting there, having those goals. I can’t even imagine it, being taken from me like that.”
With no postseason this year, Granard began focusing on next season, his final season. He expects to come back better than ever, better than his All-American sophomore season, which he now realizes was accomplished at less than 100 percent.
Granard said some of the symptoms that felled him this season had surfaced two Octobers ago, and he went to a doctor then, got some medicine and didn’t get better.
“I kind of ignored it because it doesn’t physically hurt me or anything,” he said, “and I went through the season, didn’t have as good a season as I wanted to, so I took eighth at nationals. But I know I wasn’t wrestling like I could have through the season.”
He expects to know again what it’s like to wrestle with the stamina he had during his freshman and redshirt freshman seasons when he could go strong for all three periods of a match and win in overtime if needed.
For his final go-around, he’ll have what he didn’t have this year: his health. And he’ll be driven to regain what he couldn’t have this season: a return to the national tournament.
“I’m just looking forward to and excited to be able to wrestle with a healthy body at 100 percent,” he said. “I do believe that I’ll be an All-American. Of course, everybody’s shooting for a national championship, but I want to do everything I can to get there.”