Stronger than ever
Fruita Monument's Konrad excelling in return from back injury
Ian Konrad was hungry to train and improve his wrestling skills after qualifying for state as a freshman two years ago.
While wrestling in a club tournament, however, he broke the pars interarticularis on his L5 vertebra in his back. The severity wasn’t immediately obvious until after months of rehabilitation. When an MRI revealed the broken pars, Konrad needed surgery.
As a result, he missed his entire sophomore wrestling season.
The Fruita Monument High School junior was cleared in the fall to resume wrestling and looks to qualify for the state tournament again. The Wildcats wrestle in a regional-qualifying tournament this weekend.
“I worked so hard for it,” Konrad said. “It was really tough to not be there and watch the team. I missed being out there because wrestling is my passion. My biggest high school dream is to become a state champion. It was such a drawback, but I’m getting back to where I was before, and even better, I think.”
Konrad was excited for the start of this wrestling season, but also nervous.
“Going into the season, I was worried it might set me back, but honestly it hasn’t at all,” Konrad said. “I keep a mindset where I don’t think about my back. I’m not going to let it hold me back. Supposedly it is 100 percent or even stronger than it was before.”
Konrad (32-10) won the Jackpot Duals in early January and went 4-1 in the Southwestern League Duals over the weekend.
“I definitely have some work to do before state, but I’m satisfied with how far I’ve come so far,” he said.
Fruita Monument coach Dan Van Hoose is pleased, too.
“He’s done a great job of working hard,” Van Hoose said. “It’s been a very long process for him. The kid is mentally tough in so many ways.
“He’s a very mindset, goal-oriented person. I think he can achieve anything he puts his mind to. I’m really proud of him.”
Konrad was wrestling in a freestyle tournament in the spring after his freshman season. He was trying a cement-mixer move in an exhibition match against a wrestler in a weight class above his.
“You go under and try a barrel roll,” Konrad said. “He stopped me, but I kind of forced it over, and that’s when it happened. I ended up pinning him. I walked off the mat and my back was spasming.
“I thought I strained my back muscles. We talked to the doctor after a while, and it wasn’t getting any better.”
Doctors decided he needed physical therapy, not surgery, so he began months of rehabilitation.
When football season came around, Konrad played one game, but his back was still bothering him, so he went back to the doctor.
An MRI revealed broken pars in the L5 vertebra. The Konrads decided to get a second opinion in Vail on their way to Denver for the varsity’s first tournament. He was told he could get pain injections during the wrestling season and do surgery after the season or get the surgery done as soon as there was an opening. There was a concern his disk could slip and cause more pain.
The Konrads talked to Van Hoose the night before the tournament.
“He told me I shouldn’t wrestle, and I should go ahead and get the surgery,” Konrad said.
“It was something I didn’t want on my watch,” Van Hoose said. “He could have that pain the rest of his life. I didn’t want him to risk that his sophomore year.”
Konrad had surgery a year ago in January, but there were complications. His body had a negative reaction to the anesthesia.
“I was in the hospital for, I think, a week,” he said. “What made it more complicated is I kept passing out. I would go completely black. They couldn’t ever figure it out.”
Konrad was bed-ridden for more than two months and missed three months of school following the surgery. His math teacher would come by the house and give him his schoolwork and help with his studies.
Lying in bed wasn’t easy for Konrad. He usually spends his free time snowboarding, hunting and fishing.
“It was pretty rough for him, but he was strong,” his mother, Lisa Konrad, said. “He had a great attitude. He did what he had to to get through it. I’m proud of him.”
Ian’s younger brother, Eli, a freshman this school year, was there for him.
“They have always been best friends,” Lisa Konrad said. “Eli was pretty sweet when Ian was in bed. He would stay home and hang out with Ian instead of going out with friends.”
Ian said he struggled with his recovery, mentally and emotionally.
“The whole recovery period is a blur,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I spent that whole summer preparing for that year. I was ranked sixth going into my sophomore year.”
When he did return to school, it was for half-days, and limits were set for how much weight he could carry in his backpack.
“It was hard to walk again,” Ian said. “I had to wear a back brace for three or four months after the surgery.”
Once he was cleared to get out of bed, he would attend Fruita Monument wrestling duals and help out with scoring and video, but that only made him want to be on the mat more.
“He managed for us (last year),” Van Hoose said. “He learned a lot from a different aspect. Ian’s kind of a sponge. He’ll soak up everything he can. He’ll watch videos. It wasn’t a wasted year for Ian. He studied the game a little bit better.
“I don’t only feel he’s caught up from missing that year, but he’s exceeded where he was as a freshman. At first, he wanted all of it to happen overnight. I’m really pleased where he’s at right now. He still tries to force stuff a little bit, but I’m real pleased where he is at.”