Coping with pain was a matter of the mind for Jackson Lakso during his freshman season with the Otterbein University wrestling team.

Only eight matches into the season, the 125-pounder suffered an injury to his left shoulder. He managed to tough out the remainder of the schedule to help the Cardinals during their inaugural campaign.

It wasn't until a doctor's appointment after the season that the 2016 Central Crossing High School graduate realized how much damage his shoulder had sustained.

"It really didn't hurt that much," Lakso said. "I mean, it hurt, but I didn't think I had torn it that bad. It sometimes felt like someone stuck a knife in (the shoulder), but I think the adrenaline kicked in a lot of the time.

"After the season when the doctor told me I needed surgery, that made it hurt a lot more. I started to feel (the pain) all the time after that. I wasn't worried during the season. I thought everything would be OK."

Lakso was the program's only 125-pounder, and he felt obliged to make sure the weight class was filled during matches. He went 21-9 with seven pins, including 3-3 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

"Jackson had a phenomenal season considering his injury," coach Brent Rastetter said. "He was basically a one-armed wrestler at the college level, which is pretty tough.

"Some of the things that he excelled at during his high school career had to be altered because his body would not allow him to do those anymore. I'm excited to see what he'll be able to do when he's healthy."

Lakso had surgery in early April. His recovery is expected to take four to six months.

"When we got an MRI, half of my (left) labrum was ripped in half, so they put in six anchors to hold it in place," Lakso said.

"I have been doing a lot of band work more than anything to increase the range of motion. After I get motion back, then we'll work on getting the strength back."

Rastetter said Lakso was the kind of wrestler he was looking for to lay the foundation for his fledgling program.

"When I took the job at Otterbein, Jackson was one of the kids that jumped into my mind from my coaching days (at Lexington)," Rastetter said. "I remember Jackson was wrestling a really tough kid that was really kind of cocky. The kid tried to rattle Jackson, but what impressed me was the way Jackson continued to go right after him. He ended up winning the match and I knew that was the kind of kid that I wanted at Otterbein."

Lakso had a career record of 169-42 and was a three-time Division I state qualifier at Central Crossing. As a senior, he placed fourth at state at 113 to finish 46-8.

"The change (from high school to college) wasn't too bad because I was always wrestling (in practice) against guys like James (Wimer) and Jaden (Mattox), and we were a mean group of guys," Lakso said. "That really helped me get ready for this level."

Lakso said he remains close to his season weight of 125 and expects to return to that class as a sophomore.

"I expect to wrestle next year, but if (the shoulder) tears again, I might think about calling it quits," he said. "Right now, I'm just working toward getting back."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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