If there was a category below bad luck, Dundee-Crown senior wrestler Raymond Griggel may very well qualify for membership.
A four-year varsity starter, Griggel and injuries have bumped into each other way more than the three-sport student-athlete would like.
A torn ligament in his left arm cut short his freshman season. During his junior year he was injured at the Harvard tournament but continued wrestling in the event, eventually finishing third.
Griggel went on to finish second in the Fox Valley Conference tournament last year, losing a close 1-point match in the finals. He then developed a skin condition through a cut on the back of his neck. That ended his junior season and any hopes of a postseason run.
This past fall Griggel injured his shoulder blocking on a kick during a Dundee-Crown football game.
“The shoulder kept getting worse,” Griggel says. “I continued to play for the team. It was my senior year. I sucked it up and played.”
The lingering shoulder issue forced Griggel to miss the majority of the wrestling regular season.
“I needed to take a break and recover,” he said.
Griggel has come back a determined individual, to say the least. He won the 220-pound FVC championship last weekend and brings a 10-4 record (he has 1 loss at 285) into this weekend’s Class 3A Huntley regional.
“I was really rusty when I first returned, especially with my conditioning,” he said.
Griggel, part of a D-C regional championship team his sophomore year (legendary coach Al Zinke’s final season), notes it was extremely tough missing the majority of this season.
“For me it was very frustrating,” Griggel said. “I hate that feeling when I’m just sitting there watching the team wrestle. When the team loses you hate the feeling because you can’t do anything to help out. And when the team wins it’s tough because you just sat there and didn’t contribute anything.”
Getting a few matches under his belt when he returned alleviated some anxiety for Griggel.
“I had to keep working through it until I got the feeling back and got my rhythm and shot down,” he says. “There’s no more pain in my shoulder. I felt a million times better at conference. The first couple matches I got pins and helped the team, which made me feel a lot better. I felt a lot better than I had been feeling.”
Griggel said he’s worked hard to get his takedown maneuvers back to where they were.
“My biggest improvement has been getting my shot back,” he said. “My takedowns and my setups are looking a lot better. Those are big parts of my game. I have a good double. When I’m out there I push my opponent as much as I can. If they don’t fold in the first period, I keep pushing.”
D-C coach Bob Skillman says one of Griggel’s greatest attributes is sheer strength.
“Ray is an incredibly strong kid. He knows the sport. He’s not just a football player who wrestles,” the coach said. “He is explosive. He really needs a bigger mat to operate on. When Ray shoots, him and his opponent usually end up all the way across the mat out of bounds. Sometimes it’s frustrating to see how many takedowns he should actually get.”
Skillman admits he wasn’t sure if Griggel would wrestle this season.
“I really had my doubts that he would come back at all,” Skillman said. “We all stayed patient and let him come back when he was ready and not before. After losing the end of the season last year, I knew all that mattered for Ray was a conference championship and a shot Downstate. If we lost some duals because we didn’t have him, it really didn’t matter. He gets stronger every week. Since he has been back, the whole team has wrestled better. His presence has definitely made a difference for us.”
Looking back on his past injuries, Griggel, who was 25-15 as a sophomore at 285 and 21-3 at 220 last year, notes the skin condition last year took the wind out of his sails.
“I was devastated,” he says. “I was very angry at myself. All I could think about was being able to get back n the mat and start working again.”
Griggel, who has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, enjoys the individual aspect of the sport.
“In football you have to win as a team, but you can’t control everybody’s mindset,” said Griggel, who would like to wrestle or play football in college and is interested in studying engineering. “In wrestling, it’s up to you if you win or lose. You are pushing yourself to win or lose.”
As Skillman alluded to, one of Griggel’s big goals is getting his ticket punched to Assembly Hall in Champaign — the site of the state wrestling finals.
“My big goal is to go to state,” Griggel said. “I missed it by one match as a sophomore when I was wrestling heavyweight and then last year I got the skin disease. Winning conference felt great, but now my goal is to get to state and place if I can.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.