Champ’s story a lesson in toughness
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs CO Colorado
CRAIG ” Tim Long sat with his dad and sisters in the bleachers at Moffat County High School, rooting on his former teammates in their bids to make state at Saturday’s 4A Western Regionals.
No one had asked him for it yet, but had they, the former Rifle state-champion wrestler would have gladly offered up his advice on surviving the gauntlet that is high school wrestling’s postseason.
After winning the 152-pound state championship last year for the Bears, Long is still adjusting to the sport at the college level at Mesa State.
He’s also still recovering from a knee injury he suffered during his final season of high school wrestling.
Long’s mulling whether or not to have a second surgery. The first surgery ” which repaired a torn meniscus ” came midway through that senior year. The thing is, he followed up that injury with an anterior cruciate ligament tear at regionals, meaning he won his state title in pain.
“It bothered me the whole time at state,” he said. “Not so much while I was wrestling, but once I’d get off the mat. On the mat, you don’t really think about it.”
That, after fighting back from the previous injury, made for quite a story, something that’ll surely morph into legend in the Rifle wrestling room as time passes; it probably already has.
It’s an injury that’s bothered Long in his first year of collegiate wrestling as well.
“It’s hard to wrestle when you think your knee might blow out,” he said. “I don’t know. I hope I’ll wake up one day and everything will be fine.”
But his first college season is nearing a close, though it never really ends with practices kicking back up right after Mesa State finishes up at national in mid-March.
The toughest part about the college level of the sport, he says, is simply how intense it is.
“Practices are really hard,” Long said. “They’re a lot more intense.”
And the meets are even more punishing.
“It’s hard wrestling,” he explained. “It’s in-your-face type wrestling, like fighting without many rules.
“I don’t think I’ve had any (easy matches). I don’t think any of the matches I’ve won I’ve won by more than three points. You don’t go out there and wrestle against anyone easy. I think I had one pin this year.”
In the middle of everything, Long is relishing the opportunity to watch his old teammates as they take the mat and try to emulate what he did a year ago.
The Rifle team’s collective reverence for Long resonated in the voice of Bear James Martinez as he fought to make state in Craig on Saturday.
“Timmy drives us,” said Martinez, a sophomore, “the way he came back after knee injury to take state.”
Long will be there to watch Martinez, who wrestles at 119 pounds, and five other Rifle wrestlers ” Larry Schmueser (103), James Conrardy (135), Abe Dennis (160), Brian Key (189) and Tad Davis (215) ” at the state meet in Denver starting Thursday.
And each of them will have one thing in mind ” following in Long’s footsteps.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.