Paul Stuart could barely put any weight on his right foot on Friday at the first day of the state wrestling tournament.
He tore two ligaments in his right ankle in late January, forcing a three-week absence, and he re-injured the ankle during his quarterfinal match on Friday.
This time there’s not three weeks to recover.
But Stuart, an Andover senior, didn’t let that time crunch prevent him from chasing his third straight championship, as he was able to advance to the 145-pound championship match after limping his way through winning a 6-1 decision over Leavenworth’s Anthony Gould in the semifinals.
“It’s causing me some problems walking, so I’m sure you can imagine how many problems it causes wrestling,” Stuart said. “But I’m not going to let anything, including an injury, take that title away from me.”
Before his semifinal match, Stuart could barely walk.
So he conferred with coach Brett Fiene and they came up with the game plan of Stuart changing his stance by dropping to his right knee and wrestling, instead of wrestling on his feet.
“It’s funny because I feel like it almost lulled (Gould) to sleep and helped me out there wrestling like that,” Stuart said.
Stuart said the awkward stance made Gould reach forward more often, as Stuart was able to catch him with his weight on his front foot and score two takedowns for a 4-0 lead on Gould, who was ranked No. 3 entering the tournament.
But Stuart said he badly injured his ankle again late in the second period. He was still able to hold on to win a 6-1 decision with a grimace on his face the entire time.
“I think Paul proved to himself that he is capable of more than he probably even knows,” Fiene said. “That was a really emotional win for him where he really dug down and did something that I don’t even know he thought he could do. I mean he couldn’t even walk, so to win that match against a really high-caliber kid says a lot about his character.”
Now Stuart will get the desired rematch with Goddard’s Garrett Lange in the championship match on Saturday. Stuart lost to Lange in the regional final last week after controlling the match through the first two periods.
But before he started worrying about that, Fiene was busy working the phones trying to find a doctor who could treat Stuart’s ankle on Friday night and find out the best method to treat the injury leading up to Saturday night’s final.
“We called in some favors and we’re hoping that Paul is going to be a totally different guy (on Saturday),” Fiene said. “I’m hoping we’re going to see a brand-new Paul with that ankle.”
To Stuart, though, it doesn’t matter much.
Even if he has to practically wrestle on one leg again, Stuart is confident.
“This weekend hasn’t really gone as planned with the injury, but I’m going to tough through it,” Stuart said. “I’m still planning on winning that title (on Saturday).”