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Paynesville's Wendlandt back wrestling after 2nd surgery

One can't go back in time and undo history. But one can help erase un-wanted history by achieving previously-set goals.

Justin Wendlandt suffered a knee injury for the second time in his young life back in the fall, the same knee that he injured two years earlier. Both were during football season for the current Paynesville senior, but Wendlandt made two different decisions on how to deal with the injuries. The latter one, he says, was the wrong choice.

"I wish I would have had surgery during football," said Wendlandt. "I would have then started wrestling on time."

Wendlandt first injured his right knee in his sophomore year when he tore his lateral meniscus during Paynesville's second JV football game. Wendlandt decided to have surgery soon after so he could be ready for wrestling season. Wendlandt went 23-16 that year and helped Paynesville reach the section team final.

An injury-free junior year enabled Wendlandt to reach the Class A state individual wrestling tournament in the 145-pound class. Wendlandt was one of four Bulldogs last year that had 30-plus wins, finishing the season with a 34-11 mark and giving him a great building block to work with in hopes of possibly reaching 100 career wins. He entered his senior year with 75 wins.

But Wendlandt injured his right knee again this past fall in Paynesville's win over Morris on Sept. 18. This time, the inner part of Wendlandt's knee was affected as the medial meniscus was torn. Wendlandt waited this time to have surgery, something Paynesville wrestling coach Tim Woehler thinks Wendlandt wishes he had done earlier.

"I never want to tell a kid to quit (playing a sport), but I told him (after suffering the injury) if you stopped now you could be ready for when wrestling starts," said Woehler. "But it's his senior year and they had a lot of seniors on the football team."

Determined to wrestle, Wendlandt got back on the mat on Jan. 21 for Paynesville's West Central South Conference dual with BOLD. Wendlandt lost a major decision to Cody Hatch at 160, but Paynesville reaped the benefits of having Wendlandt back in its lineup.

"He showed up for practice one or two days after the season started and tried to wrestle, but he couldn't bend his knee," said Woehler. "We didn't think we would get him back. He tried again after Christmas and we eased him into (the lineup)."

Wendlandt has wrestled at 152 after the BOLD match and is currently 8-4 with half of his matches coming during the postseason. He was 2-1 during the team playoffs, including earning a decision in the Section 5A final against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City.

"We sat in the gym for about an hour after we won, soaking up the win," said Wendlandt of the team's 33-22 win over ACGC. "As seniors, that was our ultimate goal (reaching state)."

Wendlandt says his right knee feels "85-90 percent" and admits that he was much more polished last year, but to Woehler just having Wendlandt back is a feat in itself.

"Justin is a good team guy and this is a fun group to have," said Woehler. "It is what it is and he gives us an option."

Wendlandt just wishes he would have chosen the other option when it came to delaying surgery or not.

"It won't bend sometimes," said Wendlandt referring to his injured knee. "But you just have to go about business."

And the Bulldogs hope to take care of business beginning today.

Jesse Fuchs
I have been with the Tribune since the summer of 1998. I enjoy covering the high school aspect of the business and designing pages.
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