Tigers’ Casey returns to mat in big way, winning 140-pound title
Jace Casey had to get the can of Rust-Oleum out Wednesday.
It had been 61/2 weeks since the Grand Junction High School wrestler competed in his last match.
He spent his time feverishly rehabilitating a damaged left knee. After all, this is his senior year and he knew he wouldn’t get another chance to wrestle in high school.
Casey’s goal since he tore the medial collateral ligament and dislocated the kneecap in his left knee at the Warrior Classic in mid-December was to be back on the mat for the Jackpot Duals.
“The doctors said I wouldn’t be back,” Casey said.
He proved them wrong in a big way Wednesday, winning both his matches and the 140-pound title at the 2009 Jackpot Duals at Grand Junction High School.
“A week ago I actually decided to come back,” Casey said.
His presence gave a little more depth to a thin Tigers team that has been beset by five injuries to its varsity lineup this season.
Make that four with the return of Casey.
In his first match back, he won by a 14-1 major decision over Palisade’s Terry Williams. In the finals, Casey jumped out to a 5-2 lead over Central’s Willy Holdren and held on for a 5-4 victory.
“Ooh, bad,” Casey said when asked what his conditioning level was like.
He’s spent nearly every day in the pool since he began rehab, but being in pool shape isn’t quite like being in wrestling shape.
“I felt like my timing was off,” he said. “(I) just (had to) knock off the rust.”
Still, his absence made him appreciate the opportunity a little more.
“It feels amazing to be back on the mat,” he said.
Palisade won the tournament among School District 51 teams, overcoming an eight-point deficit to Central after the first round to finish with 72.5 points, 12 points ahead of the Warriors.
The Bulldogs got Jackpot titles from Kelly Davis (130 pounds), Wesley Shingleton (145), Tanner Barnes (152), Aaron Wagler (189) and Nick Stephanus (215).
“Our conditioning is definitely where we want it,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “A couple of (matches) we won in the last few seconds, so that was key.”
It was a big day for Wagler. Two hours before the start of the Jackpot, he was in the Palisade High School library signing his national letter of intent to play football at Western State College this fall.
Central won four Jackpot titles — Matthew Gurule (103), Jaqub Gurule (112), Jesus Rodriguez (125) and Zach Rosales (heavyweight).
Jaqub Gurule got a reverse with 11 seconds remaining to edge Palisade’s Casey Thornton 2-0 in their final.
Casey will join a number of the Tiger junior varsity wrestlers at a tournament in Nucla on Saturday as the Tiger varsity has the weekend off.
“A little more mat time, a couple of wins, then regionals,” Casey said of his plan for the next couple of weeks.