Eldorado heavyweight Mike Williams doesn’t mince words when he thinks back to the shoulder injury that cost him a shot at a Class 4A state wrestling title as a junior.
“It was horrible. I wanted to wrestle, plain and simple,” said Williams. “I was going to go hard, and I knew I could make it to state.”
With one more year left, Williams returns healthy and hungry for his final chance at Nevada’s biggest reward.
The 240-pound veteran was 16-0 as a junior before ending his season prematurely. Williams tore a muscle near his shoulder while playing tight end for the Sundevils’ football team and it gradually became worse over the course of the wrestling season, forcing him off the mat mere weeks before the Sunrise Region tournament.
While Williams concedes it was difficult to sit on the bench during the postseason, he also reaped benefits, gaining a better understanding of the mental aspects of the sport.
“I understand the moves a lot more,” Williams said. “It’s all second nature now. I can understand things better. If I see something, I’ll take it.”
But he knows there is plenty to prove in his final season at Eldorado.
“I want to show people I’m serious, and that I’m here for keeps,” Williams added. “I’m going to go hard all season; it’s already a given. What you do at the end, you should do at the beginning, but just be a little bit better at the end. I need to come out hard.”
Williams reached the state final and finished second as a sophomore in 2009, and used his injury-plagued junior year to mentor a young Sundevils squad.
“He’s always wanted to help out and coach the younger guys. He’s supportive as a teammate,” Eldorado coach Joe LaRocco said. “He’s kind of a joker some times, but when push comes to shove, his heart’s in the right place.
“I think it was tough for him, and it’s nice to see him really excited again about the sport. He had a tough run for a little while.”
LaRocco said Williams turned into another coach for the Sundevils after the injury, and he became a better wrestler by mentoring his teammates.
“It was hard watching every teammate, but I wanted to help the others, too,” Williams said. “I progressed as much as anybody else did, but I wanted everybody else to get better, too. Now I’m just trying to help everybody else come along with me.”
With the return of Williams and senior Drew Huigoretse, who placed third at regionals as a sophomore, the Sundevils hope to move back into the conversation of the Sunrise Region’s elite teams.
“Our team goal is to step up and finish top five in the state,” LaRocco said. “We just want to compete — step out and compete with the best.”
Williams’ role will be key to Eldorado’s team goals. And the senior, who hopes to play football at Washington, knows he can’t take any days off in his final season on the mat.
“There’s still pressure. You think somebody’s going to come out and upset you, because it happens all the time,” Williams said. “But that makes me more prepared. I know that I have to go hard every time; you can’t take a match off. That’s what I did my sophomore year, and it’s why I finished second.”