FARMINGTON — After his senior year got off to flying start with 17-straight wins, Piedra Vista wrestler Jacob Palmgren's season took a frustrating turn in late December.
Palmgren injured his ankle at the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno, forcing him to forfeit the title match at 126-pounds and sidelining him for the next six weeks.
But Palmgren made his return on Saturday at the District 1-4A championship, pinning his two opponents in the first round to win the 132-pound title. Now he's ready to do damage in the 4A state meet.
"It feels good," he said after competing for the first time since Dec. 28. "My ankle hurts a little bit, but I'm ready for state."
Palmgren, who transferred to PV from Del Norte High School in Colorado at the start of his junior year after winning the 2A state title at 106-pounds, hasn't lost a match in two years for the Panthers outside of the injury default in Reno.
That loss was difficult for Palmgren to stomach.
"I was upset that I got hurt, but I was more upset that I had to forfeit the match," he said. "I would have taken the loss if I had actually lost the match."
Even worse for Palmgren was having to sit out the next six competitions and being unable to help his team.
"It was horrible to be honest," he said. "Sitting out practices and everything was really upsetting."
PV head coach Levi Stout noticed the frustration Palmgren had to deal with throughout his recovery, but said his senior captain put in the hard work and expects him to be at full strength.
"That guy's been swimming. He's been on the stationary bike. He's been visualizing (his matches), and it didn't look like he missed a beat," Stout said. "He's never been hurt with a serious injury. He dealt with it like a champion and I think he'll come out on top this weekend.
"He's a rock. Good leader, good kid and a great example for all the other wrestlers. It's huge to have him back."
The two-time state champion couldn't have picked a better time to return as he looks to help the Panthers win their fourth-straight state championship this weekend in Rio Rancho.
"I feel like I'm in good shape and I'm going to work twice as hard this week just to get back to where I want to be," Palmgren said.
If Palmgren wants to add a third individual title to his resume, he knows he'll have some tough matches ahead, notably with Mikey Hernandez of Deming, who finished second at 113 pounds in state last year, and Anthony Hernandez of Del Norte, who placed third at 138 pounds in 2013.
Palmgren's mindset is to take each challenge as it comes, just as he has his entire wrestling career.
"I've just got to wrestle smart and wrestle every kid like they're the best and I think I'll do all right," he said.Joshua Perry can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.