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Each week, the Ridgewood coaching staff updates the sheet of statistics that hangs in the wrestling team’s practice room.
After the first three-and-a-half weeks of the season, junior Sam Karim and senior Joe Perez are battling for the team lead in takedowns.
But it hasn’t been like that all season. Karim and Perez, the Rebels’ two most aggressive wrestlers, were wrestling in a live session approximately a month ago when Perez sprained his right shoulder. The injury forced him to sit out for a week and in the two matches after his return from the injury the 145-pound wrestler took a more passive approach.
“The two matches he had (after returning), he did baby it,” Ridgewood coach Jared McCabe said.
“In the beginning, I was trying to space out and just work from there,” said Perez, on how the injury briefly changed his strategy. “But now I feel more confident with my hurt shoulder. I still get pain, but it’s mostly just not as strong as before.”
Seeing Perez favor his shoulder, McCabe and the Rebels’ coaches talked to the senior and explained the importance of not showing pain on the mat. They reasoned that if he did show that his shoulder was affecting him, the injury would become a target against an opponent capable of exploiting it.
“We got him in the practice room, we got him learning not to show pain,” McCabe said. “Now he’s back, he’s fresh, he’s ready to go and feeling good.”
Perez returned to his old style after that discussion. The senior had at least seven takedowns en route to a 26-11 win by technical fall in a match against St. Viator on Dec. 5, but he continues to wear a brace on his right shoulder. The brace is big, something opponents can’t miss, yet Perez said he’s not going to stop wearing it until he feels comfortable without it.
Perez has been using resistance bands in practice to strengthen the shoulder and he’s still trying to reach his optimum conditioning level. Despite that,
Perez has been in top form recently. He’s currently 9-1 and his only loss of the season was against Bartlett’s Sal Annoreno, the defending Class 3A state champion at 132 pounds, on Saturday.
Perez is shooting to make it to state himself.
“I expect to make it downstate because of how hard I worked in the offseason,” Perez said. “With the shoulder brace, I think I’m doing pretty well.”