Now that he thinks about it, Seth Padelford is relieved he didn’t make the biggest mistake of his young life.

“If I quit wrestling, I definitely would’ve regretted it,” Padelford said. “Wrestling is my passion.”

Passion or not, the Madison Area Memorial High School junior was thinking about giving up the sport, right up until the week before the season began in November. And when you hear what Padelford had gone through the previous two seasons, you wouldn’t blame him.

But if he had quit, Padelford wouldn’t now be able to call himself a state champion. He’d just ask himself “what if?” every day.

Last month, Padelford completed an undefeated season with a Class B state title at 220-pounds. When Padelford defeated Belfast’s Travis Tran in the state final in Bucksport, he shook hands with Tran and the Belfast coaches, then ran to his coach, his father, Scot Padelford. The tears were spontaneous, and completely warranted.

“Knowing what I’ve been through, that’s what made the tears happen,” Padelford said.

As a freshman two years ago, elbow surgery prevented Padelford from wrestling at all. He spent the season cheering on and offering advice to Madison teammate Matt Brown, who won the 285-pound state title.

Padelford returned to the mat as a sophomore, only to suffer a concussion in a preseason match against Foxcroft Academy’s Billy Brock. The concussion kept Padelford out three weeks. Then, at the midseason Warrior Clash at Nokomis Regional High School, Padelford suffered another injury. During a match, he felt a pop in his left shoulder. After consulting with his father, who also works as Madison’s athletic trainer, Padelford continued the match.

Again, he felt a pop in his shoulder. This time, he couldn’t move his arm. The injury eventually required a visit to specialists in Boston, who determined Padelford needed surgery to repair a dislocated collar bone that was pressing on his carotid artery.

Is there any wonder that Padelford considering not returning to wrestling? A couple weeks into rehab, Padelford felt much better. Three months after surgery, he was lifting weights and playing summer soccer, preparing for his upcoming season as goalie for the Carrabec/Madison cooperative team. Feeling fine in the middle of the summer was much different than feeling fine on the mat, though.

“That was my second surgery. I didn’t want to go through that again,” he said.

After talking with his father, and doctors, and friends, Padelford decided he couldn’t give up wrestling. That said, he still felt himself easing up on his left shoulder in the preseason. On the bus ride to Bucksport for a preseason match, Padelford thought of what would happen if he hurt his shoulder again.

But when he took the mat, Padelford’s muscle memory overode his fears.

“Once I got on the mat and shook hands, my mind cleared,” he said.

Which leads us to the state championship meet. Padelford’s win made him the second state champion in Madison wrestling history, Scot Padelford said. Going into the third period of his title match against Tran, Padelford knew he needed just two points to clinch the technical fall win. He made eye contact with his father and Brown, who sat in the coaches chairs in the corner. I’ve got this, he said, without speaking, before executing the winning takedown and setting off his celebration tears.

Here’s the thing. Padelford expects to have another shoulder surgery soon. He injured it competing in the New England qualifier. This time, it’s a partially torn labrum, Padelford said. He’s not sure if the injury will prevent him from playing soccer in the fall.

Will it stop him from wrestling? Not a chance.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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