A Test of Willpower

  • By Brian Kuppelweiser
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  • November 04, 2011 12:54 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Wrestling legend Dan Gable once said, “I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them. We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”

For West Virginia’s Lance Bryson, there may not be a statement that rings more true when it comes to the work ethic and mentality that he brings to each and everything that he does on a day-to-day basis.

On top of being an outstanding wrestler, the exercise physiology major has also accrued three 4.0 semesters during his time at the university.

Bryson, though, has had the high standard that he expects of himself tested on the mat over the last two seasons with the Mountaineers.

During his freshman year, the Shoaf, Pa., resident posted a freshman-high win total of 12 and placed fourth at the EWL Championships.

The season didn’t come without cost, however, as Bryson injured his shoulder midway through the season. Despite the injury, he kept on wrestling.

After a short time to recover and expecting a summer filled with progressive workouts to make his shoulder stronger, Bryson’s training was derailed by yet another shoulder injury. Again, he tried to work through the injury, but this time it was too much.

“I kept wrestling through both of the injuries, but when I came back for my sophomore year, I couldn’t take it anymore,” Bryson said. “My shoulder kept coming out, and it was very painful. If I would take a shot on someone and they would sprawl on it, then it would pop out, and I would have to let go of their leg.”

This is when Bryson decided it was time to sit down with Coach Craig Turnbull and the medical staff to figure out what the future had in store for him.

“Coach Turnbull and I decided to talk to Dr. William Post, and he performed an MRI,” said Bryson. “He saw that I had a torn labrum and said the only way to fix it and to prevent the issues that I was having was to have surgery.”

The diagnosis left Bryson a bit unnerved, as his collegiate wrestling career hung in the balance.

“At first I was very skeptical about surgery and wasn’t very sure about the idea,” said Bryson. “I know he is a doctor, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do. Shortly after, I decided to do it.”

Not only was Bryson slated for a left shoulder surgery, but the doctor also recommended that he have surgery on his right shoulder just six weeks later.

“The whole process was just terrible,” said Bryson. “It left me with two limp arms. In the first three weeks, I couldn’t lie down to sleep, and I lost a lot of muscle mass. I lost about 20 pounds, and it was depressing looking in the mirror seeing muscle atrophy. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to be as strong, and I wasn’t going to be the same wrestler as before.”

After an extensive rehabilitation, the next step for Bryson was to get back into the wrestling room and that is where he experienced the make or break point in his recovery.

“Whenever I got back in the room and started to drill, it just wasn’t there,” Bryson explained. “It made me so flustered and angry that I wanted to hang up my shoes. I was at the point where I said I didn’t want to do this anymore – I just wanted to be done with it.”

Despite his anguish, Bryson’s unrelenting work ethic pushed him to get better each and every day.

“I started coming in every day and just tried to get better,” said Bryson. “It took me about a whole year to get back to being an average wrestler. This summer, I kept coming in with former WVU wrestler Kurt Brenner, and he got me to what I was before and even a little better.”

Now that Bryson is nearly 100 percent from the injuries that had sidetracked his career, Turnbull believes that it is the redshirt junior’s year to shine with the Mountaineers as the projected starter at 174 pounds.

“He is consistent in both wrestling and school,” Turnbull said. “He has been wrestling in the room and looking very, very good. It is very presumptuous of me to say that he could place at the national tournament, but he has a whole year ahead of him to work at that goal.”

The goal begins for Lance this Sunday when the Mountaineers travel to the University of Maryland Duals in College Park, Md.

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