Michael Billingsley began the season as the Division I-A favorite at 170 pounds, and the Lowry senior lived up to the billing with a fourth straight state championship.
But what Billingsley overcame along the way is what made the season and his run into the state record book special.
Three weeks into the season, a tear in his meniscus was caught in the knee joint and Billingsley could not straighten his right knee. He underwent a scope surgery in December and missed a month of wrestling.
“A lot of people were telling me it would be all right,” Billingsley said. “I was a little nervous for a while. I’d never felt pain like that before.”
Billingsley, of course, looked like his old self in February and rolled to the state title.
Spring Creek’s Tyler Tate can relate. Tate battled through a torn anterior cruciate ligament two years ago to claim a state championship.
This season went much smoother for Tate, who claimed the Division I-A title at 126 pounds. Like Billingsley, it was Tate’s fourth straight state championship.
Billingsley and Tate are the 2012-13 RGJ All-North Division I-A Co-Wrestlers of the Year.
“It was an awesome way to end my (high school) career, especially winning a fourth state title,” Tate said.
Billingsley and Tate became the 32nd and 33rd four-time state champs in Nevada history. Billingsley is the second wrestler from Lowry to accomplish the feat after his cousin, Jace Billingsley, did so last year.
“That means you never really had a bad day,” Lowry coach John Brooks said. “I think I was more worried about (the knee surgery) than he was. Fortunately, there was time for him to get back and healthy. It was tough for a little while when he first came back. But he got it together at the end.”
Tate is the sixth from Spring Creek to join the elite list.
“There was pressure but I knew if I wrestled my normal matches everything would go well,” said Tate, who went 50-1 this year to finish his career with a 206-10 record and set the school record for career wins.
Tate will compete in nationals next month in Virginia Beach, Va., and is undecided on where he wrestles next year. Three of the top suitors include Boise State, Oregon State and Wyoming. Billingsley, meanwhile, will compete at Air Force. He wrapped up a 189-19 career with a 32-1 senior season.
“I feel lucky to have been part of the Lowry wrestling program, and I’m excited to be part of something like the Air Force,” said Billingsley, who also was recruited by Navy, Drexel and Northern Colorado.