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Gill making surprise return to state
The day Ryan Gill became a state football champion, his chances of becoming a two-time wrestling championship all but evaporated.
Barely two months later, Gill is four wins away from another coronation.
A standout linebacker and wrestler for Yuma Catholic, Gill suffered a deep bruise under the muscle on his right thigh in the Division V State Championship, a 21-19 win for the Shamrocks.
Days later, doctors told him he'd miss at least three months — which would take him through February and miss wrestling season. He was fresh off winning the 160-pound title in 2011 and was hoping for another win in 2012.
Fast forward to today, when he takes to the mat seeking a title at 170 pounds at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
“For me to go back and to have a chance to defend my title means so much to me,” Gill said. “I love the sport and I love everything about it. It's great to be back.”
Both Gill and YC coach Derek Beck said they figured Gill was done for the year. But about a month ago, he was cleared medically.
“Me and my mom were there, and we were just both so excited. I could see it on her face how excited she was,” Gill said of his mother, Marcine. “She's done everything she could with my diet and help push me to exercise to be ready to come back.”
After about two weeks of training, Gill competed in the Shamrocks' final tournament of the regular season, losing the championship match to a wrestler from a higher division. He followed by winning the Division IV Section I tournament and is 12-1 this year. He earned the No. 1 seed at state.
“I was really nervous going into sectionals. I remember last year going in I was calm, I was confident. This time, being my second tournament back, I was pretty nervous. The weekend before, my conditioning didn't hold up and I ended up losing the final match. But I was happy to see I improved. The basic flow started coming back to me and it showed in my last match.”
The Shamrocks took second place at the sectional tournament, which Beck said Gill had a big part in.
“You can see when he came back, he doesn't even have to be vocally motivating — which he is anyway — but just the story and the kind of person he is, plus he's a returning state champion, all that combines,” Beck said. “You can tell there was more chemistry on the team and everyone is starting to get along together because he's just a natural leader. It helps in wrestling when your teammates are working for you in practice, it makes you get better on the mat.”
In all, the Shamrocks qualified nine wrestlers for state, although only two placed last year: Gill and Ernesto Santiago, who was fifth last year.
Beck said given the nature of the injury — a hematoma under the muscle, which he said had him hospitalized for eight days and required four surgeries — he was not planning on Gill wrestling. But a part of him was holding out hope.
“In your heart you know that if anybody can do, he can probably do it,” Beck said. “He's probably the only one. I'm not saying these other kids couldn't, but I mean he's just a special kid. If anybody could do that, it was going to be him. It's not surprising, but you're expecting something else.”
Beck said he expects his senior to be standing highest on the podium for a second straight year.
“As a coach, you want him to win it, but you know that it's just special he's back on the mat,” Beck said. “Knowing him, you have to hold high expectations as a coaching staff. And I think he'd be let down if we didn't expect him to win it.”
For Gill, he said he was just happy to be on the mat.
“I missed it all season long and it's great to be back. Any tournament, any time I'm wrestling is a blessing to me.”