BURLINGTON — Cam Rice sat out last wrestling season while dealing with a few injuries and personal injuries.
But the more Rice sat around eating and watching his teammates improve and get their hands raised time and again in victory, the more he started to miss the sport that has been such a big part of his young life.
So Rice talked to the Columbus/Winfield-Mount Union high school wrestling coaches and worked out a plan for him to return to the mat for the Wildcats for his senior season.
Rice, ranked sixth at 152 pounds in Class 2A, made up for lost time Thursday night at Notre Dame High School. With his team trailing undefeated Notre Dame-West Burlington/Danville by three points heading into the final match of the dual at 152 pounds, Rice came away with a hard-fought 9-7 victory over C.J. Walrath, ranked ninth in Class 3A at 145.
Rice’s victory knotted the dual, forcing mat official Mike Vantiger to go to the rulebook to break the tie.
Columbus/W-MU was awarded a 37-36 victory by virtue of tiebreaker G — the team with the least number of forfeits.
After sitting out last season, Rice is ecstatic to be back on the mat with his teammates and friends.
“I had a few injuries and a few mental things going on. I just didn’t do it. It was a mistake on my part, but I’m coming right back into it,” Rice said. “I didn’t miss it at first after I was eating all that food, but then a little later when I started seeing everyone else being so successful, then it started to hurt.”
“We had some kids step up tonight,” Columbus/W-MU co-head coach Andy Milder said. “Cam Rice is ranked fairly high at 152. Notre Dame moved their highly-ranked kid up against him. Cam stepped up to the challenge. We didn’t think he would move him up to us, but Cam stepped up and wrestled really well. He can get better. We have room for improvement, but those were two big wins for Cam tonight.”
The win snapped the Nikes’ 11-dual winning streak and gave Rice a big boost of confidence.
Rice came back later to post a 10-3 win over Max Mashek, lifting the Wildcats to a 45-25 victory over Louisa-Muscatine and a sweep of the double dual.
“There are a lot of young kids on this team, a lot of good potential. We don’t have very many seniors that are getting ready to leave, so a lot of these kids are getting ready to come up and do our job for us,” Rice said. “I had a year off last year. I got right back in the groove of everything this summer. The coaches were immediately on board and wanted me back. We have a great team, lots of kids in here. We’re putting in the work over the summer and every chance we get.”
Columbus/W-MU got pins from Lane Scorpil (106) and Brody Barton (126) and a decision from Robert Loveless (182) against the Nikes.
In the win over the Falcons, Columbus/W-MU got pins from Chance Malone (220) and Barton and a decision from Kendal Pugh (145).
“We’re fairly young. We’re happy with the way the kids performed in certain areas,” Milder said. “We keep telling them this is a process. You have to buy into this process. Kids are wearing shirts now. It’s a brotherhood for them. Everyone has each other’s back. They support everybody. I think we have a group of kids that are willing to do.”