Against all odds, Hillsboro senior Jacob Yoder will get a chance to achieve his goal of earning a medal at state when he walks onto the mat in Busch-Gross Coliseum in Hays this weekend.
“I really wanted to finish the season out and do my best at state—and I wanted to get that state medal,” he said.
Yoder separated his shoulder about midway through a standout football season that culminated with his recent selection to the Kansas Shrine Bowl all-star game.
He learned to compete in football with a vulnerable shoulder and, in consultation with parents, doctors and coaches, opted to continue the experiment into the wrestling season with the help of a brace.
“My shoulder wasn’t going to stop me from wrestling,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting that brace and seeing how it would keep my shoulder in.”
The experiment included changing Yoder’s wrestling style in an effort to reduce risk to the shoulder.
“I’ve always taken shots and have been pretty active,” Yoder said. “This year I’m doing more upper hooks and upper body tosses, so it doesn’t get my arm extended above my head. That’s when bad things happen.”
The changes were frustrating at first. He credits coach Scott O’Hare and summer camp training with helping him make a successful transition. Not only was Yoder able to compile a 32-4 record this season and set a new school record for pins in a season, he’s been more dominant on the mat this year than any previous season.
“I think it might have made me better,” Yoder said of the new style. “The under hooks and that style of wrestling is good for me because I’m strong, so I can use my strength to dig in whatever I want and use that.”
“Although Jacob has been successful over the past three years, he has really just started showing his dominance this year,” he said. “He is much more confident, aggressive and intense now. He has shown flashes of it in the past, but it has really come out this year.”
The season has been successful, but not without a major scare. During his championship match at the Hoisington tournament in late January, the shoulder popped out once more.
More intense than the physical pain for Yoder was the thought of defaulting the match.
“It was frustrating because I was wrestling the No. 1 guy in the state at the time,” Yoder recalled. “I was down by one point with a minute left in the period. I felt like I was wrestling him really good and was just setting up for a move. He took a shot, he was clenching my arm and it just popped out.”
The shoulder slipped back into the socket relatively easy. Yoder iced the injury, missed one practice and was back in action the following weekend. He hasn’t slowed down since.
State medal or not, Yoder is scheduled for surgery two days after the state tournament. He expects to compete in track this spring and said he will be good to go for the Shrine Bowl in July.
No one who knows Yoder is betting against that outcome.
“I like competition and I love to win,” he said. “I just feel like even though I have a bad shoulder, I want to keep going.”