Only a few weeks ago, wrestling was certainly not the top priority for Winder-Barrow High School senior Tristan Yaptengco.
Despite being a regular visitor to the state wrestling tournament throughout his career, the senior suffered a fall which resulted in a fractured skull. His return was doubtful at best even though the Mat Bulldoggs were entering the most important stretch of the regular season.
“We weren’t even thinking about wrestling,” said WBHS coach Jason Austin. “What’s going through your mind at a time like this is Tristan’s long-term health and if he will be able to lead a normal life.”
“I am still a little behind on my conditioning,” the WBHS senior wrestler said Monday afternoon. “That happens when you miss six weeks from wrestling.”
While recovering from the injuries sustained in the fall, Yaptengco said he worried about never being able to return to the mat again.
“It was upsetting when I thought about it could all be over,” he said. “Once I learned I was going to be able to return, it was like Christmas morning.”
Yaptengco said he wasn’t too disappointed with his showing at sectionals, held Friday and Saturday in Loganville.
“I didn’t wrestle my best Saturday, but I did have a good day Friday,” the senior Mat Bulldogg said.
Having qualified for state each of his four years in high school, Yaptengco hopes to close out his career in a strong way.
“I’ll train hard this week and also prepare myself mentally,” he said. “All I can do is wrestle my best and see how it all turns out.”
Yaptengco has steadily worked himself back into shape and will join teammates Landon McFarland and Austin Stewart at the state finals in Macon. Yaptengco was fifth at 138 pounds at the state sectionals Friday and Saturday in Loganville. He finished 3-2.
McFarland was third at 132 pounds with a 4-1 record. Stewart finished fourth at 220 with a 4-2 mark.
Agustin Salas was ninth at 275 and needed one more win to advance to the state wrestling finals.
Austin said he was pleased with how his wrestlers performed at state sectionals. This week the coach said the wrestlers who qualified for state would fine tune some things and continue with their mat drills.
“It really won’t be anything new,” Austin said. “We will go over some situational things and then see how they do in Macon.”