Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Caton weighs in

LHS junior uses adversity as motivation on the mat

February 2, 2006

— When skimming the list of Lansing High wrestlers who advanced to the finals Saturday at the Baldwin Invitational, the most unlikely of championship contenders may have been junior Casey Caton.

After all, there were doubts at the beginning of the season that he'd even be able to wrestle because of complications with having his tonsils removed. He'd lost so much weight and so much energy. He could barely eat solid foods. Then, once he returned to the mat, his strength and stamina were slow to return to top form.

But there was Caton, standing atop the winner's podium Saturday as the tournament champion at 152 pounds. Of Lansing's six wrestlers in the finals, Caton was the only first-place finisher in the bunch.

For Caton, it was sweet redemption.

"This means a lot," he said. "Things are starting to get better. When I first started wrestling again after my surgery, I had no energy. I'd lost a lot of blood. But the hard work is starting to pay off."

The ear-to-ear grin on Lansing coach Ron Averill's face after Caton finished off Santa Fe Trail's Josh Connelly, 13-3, in the championship match was a clear indicator of the coach's thoughts about Caton's performance.

"The way that Casey came in here and competed, he just keeps getting better and better," Averill said. "He got off to a slow start with his illness and everything before Christmas, so it's encouraging to watch him progress through every tournament like he has. We felt good about the way he was able to go out there and dominate and stay in control."

The key word for Caton has been control. Not just in terms of competition, but regarding his focus throughout the season. Even when his opportunity to wrestle this season looked bleak, he never doubted he'd be back on the mat. Then, when he returned, he seized control of his situation.

Caton's weight loss from tonsil surgery allowed him to drop a weight class from last year. As a sophomore he was a state qualifier at 160 pounds. This year he looks like a legitimate contender for a state medal at 152 - as long as he can keep the weight off.

Although his appetite is increasing and his strength is returning, Caton said he hasn't had trouble maintaining his weight. At most he has had to drop three or four pounds to make weight.

Although making weight has been easy, keeping his spot on varsity has been a battle. Caton and senior Jeff Terrill both are vying for the 152-pound position. Terrill had it for the first month of the season. During that time he posted an 8-3 record and earned a No. 6 ranking in the state.

Through wrestle-offs in practice, Caton eventually won varsity spot. Caton now owns a 15-3 record.

"I beat Jeff 9-1 in the wrestle-off," Caton said of last week's battle for the varsity spot. "He's ranked sixth in the state, so that's saying a lot."

Caton - who said he's about 87-percent healthy now - credits Terrill for his quick recovery from his early-season surgery, as well as for his steady improvement this season.

"I see him practicing hard, and I think he's practicing harder to beat me," Caton said. "That makes me practice harder and it makes me better."

The knowledge that his health is improving and that he beat one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state now has Caton setting his sights on bigger goals. The Baldwin title was nice, he said, but now his goal is to place at state.

"I'm hoping this will spring me for the home stretch," he said. "I'm hoping to place in the top four or top three this year. I'm just hoping for the best."

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