There's a saying that you'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity, and for Menomonie senior wrestler Sam Skillings that saying couldn't be more true. And his mastery of the mat, began all the way back in second grade.
"I liked winning I guess," Skillings says. "The individual part of it. If you lost it was all on you, and if you won it was all on you."
"Sam doesn't need motivation from coaches," Menomonie head coach Raymond Paul says. "Sam doesn't need motivation from anything, but his willingness to win and his willingness to be successful."
Skillings' drive launched him to the top of Wisconsin high school wrestling, but his final season was in jeopardy after breaking his leg playing football in September. The only thing certain for the senior, was a lengthy rehab ahead.
"They told me 3 to 5 months," says Skillings. "And I had a little worry in the back of my head, that I might not get the chance to win a state title."
But Skillings approached his rehab the only way he knew how, like he was getting ready for his next match.
"A lot of people never thought I'd even be back for this season, but I lifted every single day," Skillings says. "I did my stretches, I went to therapy, and I did everything in my power to make it heal faster."
"I knew right away when he had the green light, that there's a chance he could come back," says Paul. "He was going to do everything possible, and he goes above and beyond it."
But the journey back hasn't been easy, and finding his footing after a horrific injury came with a few stumbles.
"It's still a work in progress. It's been a struggle to figure out certain positions that I used to once be able to do, but now I can't really do that," Skilling says. "It's not flexible enough. And it's just trying to figure out the ins and outs, and what works for me now."
And what he's doing is working. As Skillings is currently ranked first at 182 pounds in division one this season. His eyes are set on achieving a lifelong goal of becoming a state champion, after coming in second place last season.
"Every time in Sam's career when he has failed to reach a goal that he has set, he's come back with so much motivation and changed things up," Paul says. "He tries to figure out why that happened, and how he can avoid that happening again."
"I feel like I've outworked everybody so far this year," says Skillings. "I'm just going to keep grinding and keep doing what I'm doing, and all the pieces are going to come together in the end."