Palisade’s Maestas makes most of bad breaks01 Feb 2017
By Dale Shrull, gjsentinel.com
Same wrestler, same situation, same frustrations, different year, different injury, same hopes and dreams. Isaac Maestas has had a frustrating start to his senior year of athletics. The Palisade High School standout went from being a do-everything linebacker/running back/kicker in his final season with the football team to just being a kicker. A broken right arm in mid-October put Maestas on the shelf after surgery. Even though he continued to kick, he never kicked the frustration of not being a difference maker on the field. With the arrival of February, Maestas is just now shaping up to be a Class 4A state wrestling contender. That broken arm kept him off the mat until after the first of the year.
“It was almost a full year since I wrestled,” he said after a recent match. “It definitely frustrates me because I’m a competitor. I want to be out there with my teammates doing my thing. But I had to take a step back and focus on what was hurt. I had to focus on the little things.” Last year, a snowboarding crash landed Maestas on the sidelines for the wrestling season until the regional tournament. He qualified for state but he had little chance with so little time on the mat. This year, he’s looking to be back to state and back on the podium where he finished fifth as a sophomore. And the arm injury hasn’t lessened his wrestling goals one bit. “I’m setting the bar high for myself,” he said. “I want to win a state championship at 160 this year. I have no other goals less than that, it’s always going to be as high as I can make them.”
For wrestling fans, the first question that pops to mind is “160?” That’s right, Maestas is back where he was as a sophomore. After football and no wrestling mat time, Maestas found himself a little on the pudgy side. “After I got hurt, I kinda got out of shape a little, then I lost 15 pounds in a week,” he said. His first match back was at 170 against one of the best in 4A. Central’s E.J. Barrera was coming off his Warrior Classic title and the match was a mismatch that ended with a quick pin at the Jackpot Duals. “It was my first match back and he’s at his peak,” Maestas said. “I knew that was just going to be a learning experience. I was just knocking the cobwebs off with that match.” With about the same number of matches that most wrestlers get before the winter break in December, Maestas is still playing catchup to a certain degree. He’s 14-4 with two losses coming to Hotchkiss senior Wade Katzdorn (ranked No. 2 in 2A).
This past Friday, Maestas looked quick, aggressive and powerful in a first-period pin over a Meeker wrestler. Maestas, who on Monday announced on Twitter that he plans to play football at Colorado Mesa in the fall, says his arm is now 100 percent. Palisade coach Tanner Ridgway said it’s all about getting mat time before regionals. “I think his conditioning is fine, he just needs more mat time,” he said. “Getting in those situations on the mat is what he’s missing.” Maestas knows that, too. “You have to go live, you have to have that live experience to get better,” he said. “I still have a lot of little things I have to improve on. Wrestling is about the little things, it’s about the basics and that’s why you have to keep working.”
Maestas is the fourth-ranked 4A wrestler at 160 pounds, according to On The Mat. Ridgway, who won a state title with Paonia in 2007, thinks Maestas needs to keep things in perspective. “I think Isaac has to not put so much pressure on himself,” Ridgway said. “He has high expectations and we know that he can achieve those goals but he can’t put so much pressure on himself.” For Maestas, last year’s injury cost him a shot at the podium and now, he’s focused on making good memories this year. “It definitely drives me to do better after my injury last year,” he said. “I’m not using that as an excuse, I’m going to use that as a drive for me. My goal is to be on top at (Class 4A) 160 this year.”