Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

The wait is over

Former state champion Grape returns tonight from ACL tear

February 1, 2007

Attention Kansas high school wrestlers, consider yourself warned: Kyle Grape is about to return to the mat.

Yes, that Kyle Grape. The three-time state medalist, 2005 state champion and 2006 state runner-up.

Grape's senior season was in danger after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a football game at Basehor-Linwood on Sept. 29. The knee is healthy again, so Grape is expected to begin his season at 5:30 today when LHS competes in a dual at Tonganoxie.

Normally Grape wouldn't get too bent out of shape for a Kaw Valley League dual, but this time it's different.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be nervous because it'll be my first time back on the mat, and with tearing my knee and stuff I'm pretty sure I'll have some nerves running," he admitted. "But I'm just going to go out there and try to get it over with fast so nothing happens. I want to get that first match out of my way. I'm ready for it."

Grape likely will compete at either 152 or 160 pounds today. He said it really doesn't matter where he wrestles, as long as he gets to. He has waited too long for this opportunity.

The first half of the season was agonizing for Grape. Instead of participating in drills at practice, he was forced to sit against the wall and watch. He hoped to return by regionals, but for a while there was no clear indication he'd be back.

"I was hoping to be back, but there was some doubt in my mind, too, because I've heard of ACL tears before that took six months to a year of recovery time," he said. "That would've put me at April and not wrestling."

Fortunately for Grape, the knee healed quickly - or as quickly as ACL tears possibly can. He returned to the practice mat two weeks ago and began working himself back in shape.

Grape said he is not hesitant when doing particular moves, either. He wears a $600 custom knee brace for support, and he said the brace has put his mind at ease.

From the first day of practice his technique was flawless.

"It's kind of like what they say about how you can take the boy out of the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy," LHS coach Ron Averill said. "You can take the mat from the wrestler, but you can't take the wrestler out of the boy : something like that."

Grape's skills were there, but his physical fitness was another story.

"He's been working real hard and rehabilitating himself, but it's not what it should be," teammate and 2006 state champion Kyle Buehler said of Grape's conditioning. "Me and Nick (Flynn) will pound on him and he'll pound on us and we'll whip each other into shape come state time."

Despite missing about 70 percent of the season, state is a goal that Grape doesn't think is unrealistic.

"The state championship's not even out the window," Grape said. "It's still there. I can still come in and get it. State's still about three weeks away and I've got time to prepare for that."

But first thing's first. He has two matches tonight.

"I'm just taking it one step at a time right now, one practice at a time and getting in better shape," he said.

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