Entering his senior season, New Plymouth (Id.) wrestler Joe Rice knew he had the opportunity to do something special. With a strong regular season and a run through the Class 2A state tournament, Rice could become just the 25th wrestler in state history to claim four consecutive state titles.
He did it, it just took a lot more physical strain than anyone imagined.
As reported by the Idaho Statesman, Rice competed at the Class 2A state meet with four torn ligaments and a bruised meniscus in his right knee. The 138-pound star had spent nearly a month on the sidelines rehabilitating the injury and decided to make at defending his state crown despite competing in just one brief competitive match before the state meet.
He had to face the class of the division. He had to wear a cumbersome knee brace. And he had to compete better than he ever had to earn a title. Check, check and check.
And after Rice pinned Aberdeen star Carson Beck in the state title match, he could reflect on a remarkable career that places him among the best in Idaho history.
“I just have faith in myself and in my training,” Rice told the Statesman. “I’ve had teammates in the past, Levi Austin, who won a state finals with several broken bones. If he could do it, I could do it.
“All this hard work that I’ve put in over the years has come to this one point, and it showed. I was super happy, kind of emotional. I had a lot of ups and downs this season.”
Ups and downs are an understatement. Now he plans to head off to compete in collegiate wrestling at a school still to be determined, though not before at least a few more practice matches while sporting that hefty brace.
“Maybe a few little light practices here and there,” Rice joked. “I’ve got this brace still. I can’t stand not wrestling for three months.”