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Paul Klee: UCCS soccer gets a tough one in Cheyenne Mountain wrestler Luke White

By: Paul Klee
February 17, 2017 Updated: February 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm
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Cheyenne Mountain's Luke White, left, controls Hunter Willis of Pueblo County but ends up losing their 152 lb semifinal match at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament Friday, February 17, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

DENVER - Everyone knows pain is worse if you know it's coming.

It's like when you stub your toe on the coffee table. That two-second pause that follows the stub and precedes the crippling, we're-all-going-to-die surge of pain through your foot?

Ugh.

So when a kid like Luke White is standing there, a tuft of tissue dripping blood from his nose, and he's telling me how his left shoulder dislocates in every wrestling match - "Every single one," he says - I'm not sure whether to call him crazy or shake his hand in admiration.

"He's probably the toughest kid I've coached in 13 years of doing this," Cheyenne Mountain wrestling coach Tyler Seaney said at the state wrestling championships on Friday.

I shook White's hand.

I'm still sore.

"I don't mind the pain too much," White said after falling in the state semifinals with a 10-3 defeat to Pueblo County all-timer Hunter Willits, who will be going after a fourth state title Saturday. "But I'll probably need surgery on it after the season."

The real winner here? UCCS soccer. Yes, soccer. Instead of attending college as a wrestler, White is sticking around these hills to score goals for the Mountain Lions.

Good luck to the poor saps charged with marking him on the pitch. He might just pin 'em.

"I'm actually kind of tired, so that's a good sign," said Willits, whose 44-2 record this season suggests breaking a sweat is not part of his usual routine.

It's an unusual hybrid - soccer-player-turned-wrestler - and White credits his dad and brother for nudging him toward his second-favorite sport, on the mat. He also sees benefits from wrestling he can take to soccer, namely how wrestling demands flexibility and forces him to contort his body to find the advantageous angle. Corner kick's in the air? Secure inside position and "leverage your body," as he said.

"But the biggest thing is probably the mental aspect," said White, who carries a 3.2 GPA and went 24-7 for Cheyenne Mountain this season.

Such as?

"Like tonight. I went in thinking: 'Crazy things happen at the Pepsi Center.' You don't walk in here and they say, 'Here's your gold medal because of what you did to this point,'" White said. "Anyone can win, and anyone can lose."

His wrestling coach, Seaney, made the astute point that wrestling might've helped White get recruited to play soccer at the college level. Who wouldn't want a goal-scoring forward who would just as well go through defenders as dribble around them?

"He's irreplaceable," Seaney said. "He's been a cornerstone for us."

Here's the real question. Bigger thrill: scoring the winning soccer goals against Pine Creek and Air Academy, or nailing down consecutive appearances in the semis at state wrestling?

"I love soccer," he said. "But when you win a big match in wrestling there's no feeling like it."

Beats a dislocated shoulder, especially when you know it's coming.

"Anything beats that," he said.

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