Freshman Korey Kostur was in his first day of practice Jan. 20 after his best high school performance -- first place in the Las Vegas tournament -- when he heard a pop in his knee.
Junior Charlie Martinez felt sharp pains in his knee Jan. 25 in his second tournament back after missing most of the early season with academic struggles.
Within a span of five days, the Moffat County High School wrestling team lost two state-ranked wrestlers just three weeks before the regional tournament.
"My wife thought I was moping around like a sad puppy dog," said coach Roman Gutierrez. "All of the sudden, the wheels started falling off and we had no spare tires."
Kostur suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. An injury, the doctor told him, would put an end to his season.
Martinez, who missed five weeks last season because of an MCL injury, feared he had suffered the same injury. Initial MRIs were diagnosed as a bone bruise and it would require two weeks of non-weight-bearing activity to heal and another questionable return.
Yet after hours of rehabilitation, both wrestlers returned to the mats this afternoon for the regional tournament.
"Korey's recovery was amazing," said Rich Sadvar of Craig Physical Therapy, who oversaw both wrestlers' recoveries. "They said eight weeks and after three he's almost completely mobile."
For Martinez, it was just a relief that he hadn't re-injured his MCL.
"I was glad to hear it wasn't the same thing," he said. "I just wanted to get better so I could wrestle at regionals."
Everyday the wrestlers went in for therapy and at times it was monotonous.
"Riding the stationary bike every day was pretty boring," said Kostur as Martinez agreed.
According to Sadvar, a majority of Kostur's treatment included anti-inflammatory methods while Martinez received mostly deep massages to break up the fluid around what turned out to be hamstring tendonitis.
"When they take the mat they'll surprise a lot of people," Sadvar said. "The only thing that will hurt them is their stamina."
Kostur will wear a beefy brace for the regional tournament but the brace and the knee aren't all of his worries.
"I was way out of shape in practice this week," he said. "I just want to get to state and then take another week to get better."
Gutierrez said they have talked this week in practice about what it takes to wrestle with less stamina than normal.
"There will be no riding for those guys," he said.
"They'll want to capitalize as soon as possible and try to get as many pins and short matches as they can.
"With those two out there, we have the best team we can have."
The first round of the tournament started at 2 p.m. today and the second round will begin at 5 p.m. The semifinals and consolation rounds will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. The consolation semifinals will begin at 1 p.m. and the sixth- through third-place matches will begin at 3 p.m. The championship matches will start at 6 p.m.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.