Senior, Colton Weiland, used last year's shortcoming at state as motivation for his run to St. Paul this year.
As a junior, Colton Weiland entered the wrestling state competition as a section champion. The appearance served as Weiland’s first at the highest level of high school wrestling. Excited and eager to place in the top six, Weiland went into his first match. Before Weiland knew it, his time at state came to an end after just one match. All the joy and jubilation of wrestling at state gone in a flash.
“I won section, made it to state and when I got there, I don’t think I was mentally prepared,” Weiland said. “I lost my first match, a match I definitely think I should have won. Then, I got eliminated.”
The feeling of coming up short still sits with Weiland to this day. Now, in his final year of high school career, he knows what he wants to accomplish.
“I haven’t [gotten over it],” Weiland said. “It stuck with me. My sophomore year, I was so close to getting to state. That bugged me. So when I didn’t place at state last year, I just thought about it all the time. It really motivated me this year. I’d start doing extra wrestling over the summer to get prepared.”
In this new year of determination, Weiland put together a record of 27-6 en route to a second consecutive section championship. But it did not come without bumps along the way.
In late January, Weiland suffered a concussion sidelining him for the next five competitions including the section team tournament.
“I got picked up by my partner, landed on my head and the next thing I know, I’m in the training room,” Weiland said. “I didn’t know what was going on and what just happened. I’ve always been one of those guys where if I get hurt, I take a break and go back in there. But this was a little bit different.”
Limited to minimal training, Weiland ran to stay in shape and watched his teammates continue to wrestle and prepare for the section competition.
The next step in the rehab process allowed the lifting of weights. Eventually, Weiland was cleared to participate in minimal contact. The time away from training and competing gave Weiland plenty of time to contemplate his return and run through all the possible scenarios.
All of a sudden, Weiland’s aspirations were put on hold. The setback already knocked him off pace to win 150 career matches, a milestone Weiland hoped to reach. With the timing of the injury and how close it came to the section tournament, Weiland wondered if he would be physically capable of keeping his goal of placing at state intact.
“I would just sit at home and hear about how the team is doing,” Weiland said. “Then I’d go to practice and watch them and not be able to wrestle. Then when I came back, I still had headaches so I couldn’t push as hard. I’d wonder if it was worth it at times. I just had to tell myself I could do it and I didn’t want to give up.”
Head Wrestling Coach Wes Hanson kept Weiland from competing in the section team tournament to prevent any further damage. This meant Weiland’s first exposure to the mat would come in the section individual tournament over a month after his last wrestling match.
In the section tournament, a wrestler needs to finish in the top two of his weight class to qualify for state. This year, two wins got a wrestler to the finals and the third win would punch an automatic ticket to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
To repeat as section champion, Weiland would need to go through Owen Novacek of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River. The two saw each other often over the last two years. Last season, Weiland did not drop a single match to Novacek. This season, Weiland lost to Novacek by two points. Weiland wanted to be a section champion, but most of all, a chance to get his revenge.
“I want to wrestle him so badly,” Weiland said. “If anything, I would have been disappointed if I didn’t face him. There’s just some people that I can’t stand losing to and he’s one of them.”
Weiland got his wish and faced Novacek, who was ranked first in the state, in the section finals.
The match took the full three periods with multiple lead changes and even a little controversy at the end.
Tied 5-5, Weiland appeared to earn two points for a takedown as time expired. The only question, if he got the takedown in time. The clock revealed one second remaining, but the computer showed no time left. The officials converged, but Weiland felt confident the call would go in his favor.
“I got up and started celebrating,” Weiland said. “Then I looked around and people were saying I didn’t get it. I saw the clock still showed one second left. I look over, they’re talking, then they decide to give me the points. Then they kept talking about it and I was like, ‘what is going on?’”
Now Weiland treks to St. Paul to go head-to-head with 16 of the best wrestlers of the 138 weight class in the state. The situation changed, but Weiland’s hopes remained the same.
“I’ve been waiting to come down to state again since last year,” Weiland said. “All these people came down to watch and I only got to wrestle one match. You kind of feel like a failure. I had such high hopes and it sucked when I didn’t achieve them.”
In order to place in the top six, Weiland needs to win at least two matches. A wrestler is not immediately eliminated following a loss, but if the wrestler who beat them loses their next match, that knocks out the initial wrestler.
Given all that happened between March of 2017 and the present, Weiland is prepared to put the disappointment of last season and the injury of this year behind him.
“One point sitting at home, I just told myself that I would go into sections, face Owen [Novacek], beat him and go to state,” Weiland said. “I just had to get back into the game and once I did, I just looked forward.”
Weiland’s first match will take place on Friday, March 2 in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Should he advance, he will continue on Saturday, March 3.