To the average person, just watching Cumberland Valley’s Cal Reichart wrestle, it looks like he has everything under control.
His movements are sharp and precise. His ability to predict what his opponent can do next is on point. And he’s racking up win after win in his senior year — where he currently sits at 30-6 — on his way to a shot at a medal in the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in two weeks.
The 145-pounder is now wrestling just like he should have been all along, if not for an injury that’s haunted him much of his varsity career.
During a bout in the Beast of the East tournament his sophomore season, Reichart suffered a patellar subluxation — a dislocated kneecap. The lingering injury kept him from wrestling his best for the better part of two years.
“It really hurts — you kind of feel like it’s popping out, like my whole knee was twisted,” Reichart said.
A knee injury in wrestling can really mess with one’s mental and physical abilities, especially when your sport requires so much from your lower extremities.
“Battling with an injury, I never really realized how big it really is, how it really messes with how you wrestle and your mental state and everything like that. It definitely takes a toll,” Reichart said. “I couldn’t shoot with it too much or it would get swollen, and it even gets swollen to this day.”
For the senior, who first hit the mat in first grade in Virginia, wrestling is “definitely up there” as one of the most important things in his life. His love for it began when he started participating in his school’s free wrestling program after karate lessons got too expensive.
Now, Reichart continues to deal with the aftermath of one injury, putting a damper on the sport he spends so much time and energy on.
“There’s nothing I can do for it, so even if it does get hurt, it’s not going to get hurt worse,” Reichart said. “Coming back from that was definitely hard, but through a lot of practice and help from coaches and everything I’ve been able to pretty much come back successfully from my injury.”
Though Reichart will tell you his knee isn’t 100 percent healthy, help and support from people around him have made his comeback easier.
“My advice to him was, ‘Whenever you are injured, your injury and physical therapy now becomes the most important training you have — you cannot compete when you are injured,’” Eagles head coach Dave Heckard said.
Matt White, the Eagles assistant coach and strength and conditioning trainer, worked with Reichart the most.
“It was a lot of preparation with Coach White. He went through knee injuries as well, so I talked to him about it and I figured out different positions I could do to stay off my knees and not shoot with them and everything,” Reichart said. “I was doing a lot of practicing with him to learn new techniques and how to stay off of it as much as possible.”
Those new techniques along with regular icing, conditioning and rest were what brought Reichart back to the healthiest he’s been, and get his 100th win Feb. 2 at the District 3 Class 3A Team Wrestling consolations in a technical fall against Shippensburg’s Philip Torres.
It was something he was afraid he might not accomplish.
Reichart finished 2-1 during the District 3 Class 3A sectionals Saturday, falling in the championship bout to longtime friend Tucker Brough (Big Spring) on a major decision.
More importantly, he’s healthy.
“(My knee) hasn’t really done anything this year too much other than swell up. It should be fine (come states),” Reichart said. “Afterwards, I’ll probably do some offseason stuff, but I’m definitely looking forward to college.”
Last year in the state tournament, Reichart bowed out with two straight losses.
“The last time (my knee started hurting) was at states last year,” Reichart said. “It was my first match at states and I had never been there before, so it really wasn’t fun.”
Reichart, who is committed to New York University, has one last shot at a state medal in his high school career.
That run continues Thursday in the first round of the District 3 Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships, which begins at 3 p.m. at Giant Center. He’ll open against Lower Dauphin’s Christian Vaughn in the bottom half of the 145-pound bracket.
He’s expected to qualify for the Class 3A championships in Hershey’s Giant Center, which begins March 9.
And CV thinks he’ll get that elusive state medal.
“His perseverance has been incredible and has made him become a better person in the end,” Heckard said. “I see him on the podium somewhere at states in March.”