Cullan Schriever has seen wrestling through a different lens during the past five weeks. Mason City's two-time state champion has been hindered with a black cast around his right ankle, the same ankle he broke Jan. 4 during the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wisconsin.
“I got up to my feet, and he dropped down to my left leg," Schriever said. "He picked my left leg up and kicked my right leg out. I tried to get that leg back on the mat, and my toe kinda caught, apparently. But then my butt kinda landed on it, and he landed on it too. It was turned outwards. It didn’t roll underneath, it rolled out.”
He thought he heard a crack or a pop. That, combined with the pain, was enough to convince Schriever his junior season was over. But after seeing his doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, his mindset shifted.
The doctor diagnosed the injury as an ankle fracture. The timeline for Schriever's return: six weeks.
"I just kinda snapped out of it, because I knew I was gonna come back," Schriever said. "It was bad at first, but I didn’t dwell on it for long, because I found out I was good to go."
This isn't the first time Schriever has dealt with the inconvenience of an injury. The summer of his sixth-grade year, he broke his arm, which resulted in an eight-month absence.
He suffered a minor knee injury leading to the Marines Cadet & Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, in July. That injury happened six weeks before Fargo, so he sat for a month and proceeded to claim a national championship.
The recent injury to his right ankle occurred exactly six weeks before semifinals at the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines.
Schriever continued to absorb wrestling despite his physical limitations. He still went to Mason City's practices, using one foot to ride a stationary bike with his left leg resting on a bucket. Sitting idle on the bench during duals and tournaments allowed him to pay more attention to his teammates. He also spent time observing practices at Sebolt Wrestling Academy, which is held Tuesday and Thursday evenings at North Iowa Area Community College. TJ Sebolt, the wrestling academy's head coach, said Schriever is "making leaps every day."
"If he’s got an opportunity to wrestle, he’s gonna do it," Sebolt said. "Whether he’s 50 percent, 20 percent or 100 percent ... I know he’s gonna go out there and give it all he has, regardless of how healthy his ankle is."
Saturday will mark Schriever's return, as the Class 3A District tournament is held at Waverly-Shell Rock. The cast came off Tuesday, and the junior has slowly pushed himself since.
Although his long-term sights are set for Wells Fargo Arena, Schriever knows he has to focus on Saturday first. He acknowledges competing will feel a bit different than usual, perhaps a bit uncomfortable and painful. He wants to be cautious, but not so cautious that it'll cost him.
He'll deal with the adversity and inconveniences. At the end of the day, it's all about that third title.
“It’d be pretty cool just to know that, from one second thinking, ‘My season’s over,’ to six weeks later, being a state champion," Schriever said. "It’d say something about me, I think. I’m looking forward to it, because I think I’m gonna do it.”