Wade finds fun on the mat again

GRAND JUNCTION - The referee slapped the mat and Wyatt Wade sprang to his feet thrusting a right fist into the air.

Satisfied, yes. Relieved, definitely. Expected, you bet.

For the past four years, Wade has taken three regional titles. But this was by far the most satisfying. After a season of torment and frustration last year, Wade returned to the top of the podium.

Smiling, joking, his eyes full of satisfied joy, Wade seemed to be the happiest guy in the Class 2A Regional Tournament.

That's because he probably was.

"Coming back from last year, having health problems, I feel great," he says, smiling.

The senior battled through a crater of self-doubt following the 2012 season when he placed third at regionals and fourth at state in the 126-pound division.

He struggled with blood sugar problems that sapped his energy and his strength. He faded at the end of matches, always leaving the mat pouring sweat.

As a sophomore, Wade earned a second-place state medal at 112 pounds. Expectations soared for his junior season but then came the energy-draining blood sugar issues. He was in a confused haze after losses and even some of his hard-fought victories. Confused, frustrated and tormented. Win or lose, he wasn't having fun.

Beating Dove Creek's Dalton Randolph in the 145-pound finals was a reason to celebrate, but Wade has been celebrating all season. Celebrating the burial of torment and memories of last year.

He's having fun on the wrestling mat again.

"We finally got my body figured out. We changed my tempo on the mat and things are good," he says.

He admits that he's not packed with energy but he's now wrestling more efficiently.

"I have learned how to conserve (energy) better and execute what I need to when I need to," he says.

The regional final was a great example. With Wade leading 5-4 in the third, he saw an opening and pounced like a hungry lion.

In a flash, he rolled Randolph onto his back and listened for the glorious sound of the referee's hand slapping the mat.

The smile, his playful enthusiasm is back. However, his mood turns serious when he thinks about 2012.

"Last year was so frustrating," he says. "It wasn't because I lost, I was just so frustrated. Frustrated with my body. I couldn't do what I wanted to do."

It wasn't fair. Teenage athletes shouldn't have to worry about their body and how it will react.

The smile pops back as he talks about this season.

"I'm not stressed at all, I'm not cutting weight, everything is good," he says.

He's now a supremely confident wrestler.

"Taking first in leagues and first at regionals, and now I'm ready to take first at state," he says, the smile refusing to go away. "I'm totally confident that I'm going to take state."

The season didn't start that way for Wade.

First there was a crash while being pulled behind a boat on the lake that resulted in a broken leg. That ended his football season. Then there was the doubt as wrestling season started. Would those health issues return? Would his energy be sucked dry again?

"From the start, I was wondering if it was going to be another tough year. I was working out in the gym and doing whatever I could to get ready," he says.

But always lurking was the doubt and the worry that his body would be the opponent he couldn't defeat.

As the season progressed, the doubt vanished and confidence grew. He has lost only three matches this season. Last year, he went into state with 12 losses.

Wade's work in the weight room is evident by his muscular build and he's jumped from 126 pounds to 145 this year.

"I feel great at 145."

His final shot at a state title began Thursday and anything less will be a disappointment. But his satisfaction, relief and fun that he's had during his senior year to this point, has already made it an overly successful season.

"I've got my body figured out - that's the biggest thing. I wrestle because I love it, the winning is just another plus," he says.

Winning may not be everything to Wade. But after what he's gone through, he may appreciate it more than any other wrestler.

He smiles again.

"I'm just focused on state, take one match at a time and keep going."

Self-doubt gone. Frustration buried. Confidence to spare.

A wrestling medal at state - it would be priceless.