Vista Ridge heavyweight wrestler Jeff Flippen had to drop more than 50 pounds over the course of the wrestling season just to make weight and see competition.
Now that he has, he's more confident and has more energy - both of which have been instrumental in leading the Wolves' junior to a late-season run into the state tournament.
"It's helped me build a little bit of courage," said Flippen, who cut out unhealthy foods and upped his conditioning as he trimmed down from 336 pounds to under 285, the heavyweight limit.
"If I can cut down all this weight," he added, "I can do a lot of stuff."
Flippen, who missed more than half the season, made his debut at the Colorado Springs Metro Championships last month to take part in his first matches in more than two years. He sat out his sophomore season with a broken leg.
His anticipated return to the mat, though, was met with a rusty start.
Flippen lost twice at Metros, but came back to win three of his next five matches at the Les Mattocks Invitational in Denver. And with growing confidence in himself and his new slimmer frame, the upbeat junior rattled off victories in his next five matches and won a regional title.
On Thursday, he'll look to keep that winning streak alive at the Pepsi Center in the first round of the Class 4A 285 bracket.
"I think he's got a legit chance of placing," Vista Ridge's first-year coach Troy Bonewell said. "He has the ability, and that has been proven this weekend (at regionals). He's had tough guys to wrestle and he dominated them."
Flippen added, "I feel rejuvenated. I feel fresh." Certainly things he could not have said a year ago as his weight grew past three bills.
It was about 15 months ago when Flippen settled for an unhealthy lifestyle. He said it started when he broke off part of his femur while attempting to do a handstand drill in wrestling practice as a 6-foot-6, 260-pound sophomore.
The injury required two surgeries, which made him fairly immobile much of the next year and he gained more than 70 pounds.
That next fall, his increased weight wasn't as big of a problem on the football field where he was named a starter on the offensive line. But when he stepped onto the scale the first day of wrestling practice and realized he wouldn't be allowed to compete, he decided to make a change.
His coaches and teammates offered their support.
"Whether it was getting to wrestle or getting to state I just wanted him to accomplish his goals," said Pedro Giron, the team's 113 wrestler. "Even if it was just him losing weight.
"He came in and worked hard and now he's going to state. It is paying off."
Flippen gave up a fatty diet and pushed himself harder in conditioning drills as he's dropped to around 283 pounds over the past four months.
He said he doesn't plan on ever going back to the weight he once was - not even for football.
"I think you'll see a 6-6, around 250-pound lineman on the front beating everyone up," he cracked.
These days his weight transformation has been noticed around the school hallways. Teachers and even students who'd never spoken to him have complimented him on his new look, he said.
His happiness and confidence has grown, too.
"It's really good to see my son blossom into what I always knew was in there," said Teri Goss-Paxton, his mother. "I'm incredibly proud."
Flippen heads into the state tournament feeling good physically - he said his leg is pain-free since taking the weight off.
But he believes it's having the right mindset that will help him build off his streaking momentum.
"I don't want to think of it as a hot streak. I want to think of it as my determination to win state," Flippen said. "It's my determination to get better as a wrestler and as an individual, just be better in general.
"I just think the right attitude and mentality toward these things is one of the reasons I'm doing good and is how I'm actually winning."