The second time Andale junior Anthony Capul tore the labrum in his right shoulder — ripping bone particles along with sutures from the previous surgery — he was making the kind of athletic football play his teammates expected.
Late in the first half of the 2014 Class 4A-II championship game, Capul used his quickness to get through the offensive line. He leaped at the Columbus punter, arms fully extended, blocking the punt during Andale’s dominant win to cap its 13-0 season.
But the punter’s foot made contact with Capul’s hand, dislocating it. The contact came at just the right angle and force to tear Capul’s previously rehabbed labrum.
For the second straight season, a football injury forced Capul to miss wrestling.
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“I want to go to college for wrestling, and there I was (thinking), ‘I still haven’t touched a mat yet,’ ” said Capul, now a junior.
Friday, Capul (39-2) will wrestle in his first Class 4A tournament at Salina’s Bicentennial Center, trying to win his first title at 195 pounds.
It was very devastating. His whole goal since he was little was to be a four-time state champion.
Joan Capul, Anthony’s mom
“It’s really exciting,” Capul said. “It’s what we’ve been working for all year, what we’ve been training for. We go to really big tournaments, face tough kids, but state’s what matters. What we’ve been training for.”
A tough, physical athlete, Capul made a name for himself in middle-school football. His brothers, Joey and Daniel, played football at Garden Plain, and press-box conversations often revolved around how the younger Capul struck fear in opponents whose parents didn’t want them playing against this 160-pound 12-year-old.
39-2Anthony Capul’s record
195 Capul’s weight
“People tell me, ‘That’s the little Capul,’ and he looked like a high school kid,” said Andale football coach Gary O’Hair as he recalled scrimmages between Garden Plain and Andale’s youth teams. “He looked like a senior as a seventh-grader.”
“Most 12-year-olds that weigh 160 pounds, they are roly-poly kids,” Andale wrestling coach Brad Lies said. “He was destroying kids.”
When he was younger, a lot of kids would adjust their weight so they wouldn’t have to be in his bracket.
Capul, who transferred to Andale for high school, injured his shoulder in the first week of football practices in 2013. The injury nagged him throughout his freshman season, but he played through it.
At the first wrestling practices, though, the pain was too severe. An MRI revealed the torn labrum.
Anthony Capul tore the labrum in his right shoulder two straight seasons during football.
“It was very devastating,” said Capul’s mom, Joan. “His whole goal since he was little was to be a four-time state champion.”
He put in the work to be ready again, and six months later, he was released just in time to start football workouts, where he could return as a running back.
But after two football injuries, Capul chose to sit out football in favor of wrestling.
“It was real tough just to start the whole thing over,” Capul said of the second surgery. “It’s really hard mentally. Kind of brings you down.… It was hard to even watch it. I missed it so much. It took a toll on me pretty bad.
“I’ve been wrestling my whole life. After I got the surgery and was sitting in a sling, I decided, ‘I don’t want to go through it again.’ ”
Wrestling has long been Capul’s No. 1 sport. He won a Trinity Award after winning three national tournaments. By eighth grade, he established himself as a wrestler with a future.
I was really nervous that first match. It was just awesome.… I had a lot of confidence going into that first match, but I was relieved when I got the first one out of the way.
“He wants to wrestle collegiately,” Lies said. “… He’s been talking to (coaches) about wrestling in college, but without wrestling any high school matches.… ”
Capul missed football, but his confidence that he had made the right decision soared when he won a fall tournament in Kansas City. Still, at his first high school match in December, he battled nerves.
“I put a lot of work to get my wrestling back, to get my technique back,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence going into that first match, but I was relieved when I got the first one out of the way.”
At 5-foot-8, Capul tends to be shorter than most opponents. But he uses it to his advantage.
“He uses his quickness and strength,” said Andale junior Davon Spexarth, Capul’s practice partner who qualified for state at 182. “He’s so quick for how big he is. He shoots in so fast and so quick that it makes up for his height difference.”
Capul’s also strong.
But he has tree trunks for legs, and big old arms, too. Sometimes those guys can just tighten up so much. He had more strength than I did.
Scott City’s Cooper Griffith to the Garden City Telegram
“I’ve worked with him in the weight room over the years and as a freshman, he was squatting 450 (pounds),” Lies said. “That’s freakish.”
Technique has been Capul’s biggest stumbling block because of his time away from wrestling. He has the athleticism and talent and strength to dominate opponents, but that wasn’t enough in his two losses.
“Once we got tired, our athleticism failed,” Lies said. “… His technique is coming around. It’s a process to get him where he needs to be. But he’s a lot better now.”
Now that Capul will wrestle at state, his mom is thrilled to sit back and watch him reap the benefits of the work he’s put in over the past two seasons to even get there.
4Number of wins Capul needs to win a title
5Number of wrestlers in Capul’s weight class with 5 or fewer losses
“Whether he wins or loses at state isn’t going to matter to me,” Joan Capul said. “The climb that he has done since this injury makes him the person that he is. I’ve seen him with therapy, getting through, knowing that he has that pain and that he was going to do whatever the therapists told him.
“I watched him getting up at 5 and running and lifting, whatever it took. His climb, it has been incredible.”
State wrestling tournaments
Where: 6A, 5A at Hartman Arena, Park City; 4A at Bicentennial Center, Salina; 3-2-1A at Gross Coliseum, Hays
Friday – First round, 10 a.m.; quarterfinals, 2 p.m.; first-round losers bracket, 4 (semifinals follow)
Saturday – Losers bracket: cross-bracketing, 9 a.m.; quarterfinals, 10:45; semifinals, 12:15 p.m.; fifth-place matches, 2; third-place matches, 3; championship matches follow