Wyatt Wade was frustrated, disappointed and confused. And angry. He’d just lost another match. A match that he should have won. A match he would have dominated like a chainsaw taking on a watermelon last year.
But that was last year. The same year he took second place at the Class 2A state championship in the 112-pound division.
Wade will return to state this season as a 126-pounder. Last year he only lost two matches. This year he’s lost 12 times.
Questions abounded. Everyone wondered what was going on with the soft-spoken Dolores junior. What was wrong? Was it in his head? Had his mental toughness vanished? Was he injured? What was the sudden kryptonite that sapped his ability?
“I’ve had a rough, rough year,” Wade says with a slight smile. He has dyed his blond hair red and black to match the school colors and he has an abrasion on the bridge of his nose from his battles on the mat.
Every time he’d leave the mat — win or lose — he was exhausted and drenched in sweat.
Something was wrong.
Last February, Wade was a few points away from a state gold medal — one of the rarest accomplishments in high school sports. And now he was a struggling contender.
“Other coaches would ask me what’s wrong and I wouldn’t know what to tell them,” Wade says. “I’d just say, ‘I don’t know, I’m just not wrestling the same.’”
There are few guarantees in sports. However, flukes in high school wrestling are like lightning striking a lottery winner.
High school wrestling glory doesn’t come easy. At state, only the best survive to find a home on the podium.
If a wrestler makes it onto the podium as an underclassman, there’s usually a return trip the next year.
But what happened to Wade? Why was this season so sour when last season so sweet?
It took most of the season to figure it out, but now he knows.
Blood sugar. Wade was diagnosed with a kind of diabetes, where his blood sugar levels conspired against his body.
“I was so frustrated with myself. I was losing these easy matches that I shouldn’t be losing and I didn’t know why,” Wade says.
Then he perks up as he looks ahead to state.
“I’m totally ready. I’m just going to go out there and wrestle the way I know I can,” he says. “I just have to slow down and take my shots.”
For an aggressive wrestler like Wade, the normal 100-miles-per-hour attacking approach has to be modified — curtailed.
“I have to remember to breathe and wrestle a lot slower and preserve my energy.”
In his third-place match at regionals, spectators could see a methodical Wade picking his spots. Darting in for an easy takedown, circling his opponent and pacing himself. Boom, another takedown. The lead went from 4-1 to 6-2 and finally the match was over and he had an unspectacular 10-3 win.
“That’s not my style,” he says with a frustrated grin.
But it has to be his style if he hopes to have a chance of making it back to the podium at state.
His final three matches on Saturday were easy wins — 7-0, 16-1 and 10-3. But this blood sugar formula isn’t easy to figure out.
Finding the right diet balance is key.
In his first match at regionals, he was pinned by an opponent he beat two weeks ago.
“I didn’t get the right balance,” he says about his blood sugar.
Linda Wade gets nervous watching her son wrestle.
“She’s his number one fan,” Bill Wade says.
“My parents have helped me so much with this,” Wyatt says. “Keeping my diet right and my head straight.”
This season has been tough on Wyatt. Blood sugar isn’t something a 16 year old should have to worry about.
When Wyatt first started wrestling at 5 years old, Linda confesses that she thought it was a “barbaric sport.” She smiles at the term now.
She’s watched him wrestle for 11 years. Moms know when something isn’t right. And they worry.
“I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know if it was in his head or what,” she says.
Seeing her son struggle physically — soaked in sweat, fatigued, beaten and confused — was tormenting.
“He always could keep the score in his head when he wrestled,” she says. “This year he’d come off the mat and say he couldn’t remember anything about the match.”
Something was very wrong.
Now, she’s excited about state but she still wrestles with the nerves.
“I think he’s going to surprise some people, because they will look at his record and not think he’s that good,” she says.
Watching the new Wyatt Wade style on the mat is even tough on Mom.
“He was so fun to watch and he’d be so fast,” she says. “It’s hard on him, not to be aggressive.”
For Dad, whose camera is full of shots of Wyatt on the mat, seeing his son struggle was a torment as well.
“It was just frustrating. We knew he was trying, you could see it but it would just fade out. We just didn’t know what was wrong,” he says.
Now, Wyatt gets his blood tested to check his levels.
Dolores coach Dean Valdez is cautiously optimistic. After watching Wyatt struggle late in his first match at regionals, Valdez thinks the first match at state will be a huge test.
“From each match to the next, it’s a struggle. We’re still trying to figure this thing out,” he says.
He remembers the Wyatt Wade who dominated last year. He knew exactly what to expect, but this year, things are different.
It will still be a work in progress as the youngster goes into his first-round state match tonight.
Even for Wyatt, he tries to focus on the positive and be confident, but he has felt his strength sapped and his body unable to answer the call this season.
“I know my capabilities but my body just wouldn’t work with it.”
After the roughest year that any returning state wrestling silver medalist could ever imagine, Wyatt Wade says he’s ready — totally ready. He’s been to the championship match. He’s handled the pressure and the stress that comes with the ultimate wrestling match.
Tonight, at the Pepsi Center, while all the other opponents are warming up, getting their head straight for the quest of high school greatness. Wyatt Wade will get his blood tested and hope they have found the right balance.
When the match begins, two warriors will battle. The winner will move one step closer to the title.
It’s been a rough, rough year for this high school junior. He says he’s ready. But the body will hold the answer.
All the frustration, confusion and anger could disappear if things go right with his blood sugar.
If that happens, it just might be home sweet home on the podium for Wyatt Wade.