Ryan Hammond won’t need additional inspiration when the Johnson County wrestling tournament takes place next month.
It turns out the Whiteland senior might already have some.
This is the meet Warriors coach Dave Thompson wants to return the 195-pounder to competition. Hammond has been sitting out the early portion of the season to heal from injuries sustained during football.
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“Ryan has a sore shoulder and a deep quad bruise right now,” Thompson said. “It frustrates him because he wants to compete and can’t. Ryan knows the difference between being sore and being hurt and being injured.
“He knows he’s injured, and he knows that it takes time to heal from that.”
The wear and tear is understandable. Hammond, a running back, carried the ball 156 times for 1,240 yards for the Warriors this past football season. He also caught 21 passes, threw numerous blocks for teammates and returned eight kickoffs.
Add this to Hammond’s workload as a junior — 115 rushing attempts, five receptions — and requiring time to heal before taking to the mat is understandable. It was in the Warriors’ 24-21 victory at Franklin on Sept. 8 that he dislocated the AC joint in his left shoulder.
No surgery was required, and Hammond rushed for 54 yards in the following week’s loss to Avon.
Division II football programs such as the University of Indianapolis and Tiffin (Ohio) University have shown interest in Hammond. The same holds true for Marian University and the University of St. Francis, both NAIA powers.
In order to achieve his athletic potential, Hammond has learned to listen to his body.
Before his sophomore football season, he tore his right ACL while making a cut during a practice. The injury forced him to miss the 2015-16 wrestling season after Hammond made it to the State Finals as a ninth-grader in the 182-pound weight class.
Due to knee and headache issues following last football season, Hammond wasn’t cleared to wrestle until late December.
In other words, he’s been down this road before.
“The hardest part is probably mental,” Hammond said. “It’s hard not to be out there, especially this being my senior year. During practices I work on my cardio, riding a stationary bike to get my heart rate up.
“The knee is still tight, too, so I do flexibility exercises.”
Thompson is in his 28th season as Whiteland’s head wrestling coach after spending 11 years there as an assistant. He’s not about to request that an athlete specialize in his sport in order to potentially avoid injury.
“When you’re dealing with multi-sport athletes who play football, they’re a little beat up,” Thompson said. “I’m OK with that because it’s a fact of life.”