For a moment, celebrating an important victory, Reid Ballantyne forgot.
The Stillwater sophomore, already a two-time state individual champion, was emotional after earning a hard-fought pin at 126 pounds in his Class 3A team championship match on Thursday. It stemmed the momentum of eventual champion Shakopee, and was the first of five consecutive Stillwater victories.
Ballantyne won despite wrestling with a torn meniscus in his right knee and a severely sprained left ankle. Not to mention a right ankle injury that plagued him during the season. The thrill of victory overcame the pain in his legs as he bounced around the mat, slapping hands and firing up his teammates.
For a few seconds, at least.
“I forgot about everything else for a couple of seconds there,” Ballantyne said. “Then I stepped off the mat and felt it. I was like, ‘Yep, still there.’ ”
Wrestling with major injuries in both legs hasn’t affected Ballantyne’s results in the state tournament, but it certainly wasn’t part of the plan. After defeating Eden Prairie’s Bryce Dagel 11-0 in the 126-pound individual semifinals Saturday morning, Ballantyne won his third state championship by pinning Ryan Scherber of Buffalo in 29 seconds.
Getting that far, he said, was much tougher than anything he’d experienced to date.
“When I woke up this morning, I was pretty rough,” Ballantyne said after his semifinal victory. “My ankle had swelled up more. I just needed to do anything to get the blood pumping to it.”
For Ballantyne, the entire tournament has been about pain management. He’s not about to let an injury or two derail his dream of joining a select group of high school state champions.
“I really want to be a five-timer,” he said of his goal to become the seventh wrestler in state history to win five state titles. “I’m not going to let anyone stop me or attempt to stop me.”
His Stillwater coaches broached the subject of having Ballantyne sit out the team portion of the tournament. He said no. Firmly.
“Anyone who knows me knows not even to bring that up,” he said. “Why would I do that to my team?”
The three-day tournament has been filled with ibuprofen and ice, rest and rubdowns. Pain? “I just try to laugh at it,” Ballantyne said. “Deal with it, one way or another.”
To Ballantyne, it’s all about hard work. It’s not supposed to be easy.
“I was raised tough,” he said. “My dad owns a concrete company. I grew up around hard work and dealing with pain. I think I’m one tough little boy.”
It’s led him to put more time into his mental preparation. The way he sees it, he’s got too much to lose to let pain stand in his way. Besides, there’s always Sunday. He’ll have plenty of time to rest when Saturday is over.
“A match is just six minutes,” he said. “If you can’t push through six minutes, I don’t know what to tell you.”